You’re probably aware of what an airbrush tan is, but have you ever wondered how it works? What’s making that color on your skin? Most people think it’s some sort of dye, but it’s not!
The solution that you’re being sprayed with contains DHA. DHA isn’t a dye, paint, or stain. It’s actually a non-toxic, organic compound that creates a chemical reaction with the amino acids in the stratum corneum, which is the outermost layer of your skin’s epidermis. This reaction is similar to the maillard reaction which occurs in food. This reaction does not involve the underlying skin pigmentation, nor does it require exposure to ultraviolet light to initiate the change in color. When you tan outdoors in the sun or use tanning beds, the color change occurs in the deepest layer of the epidermis, the basal layer. This reaction is caused by UV rays, and it can cause serious skin damage, including cancer. DHA is approved by the FDA, and does not carry these serious risks.
When the dead skin on the surface of your body begins to wear away, the color wears off with it. An airbrush tan usually lasts for approximately 7-10 days. Because the tan occurs in that top layer of skin, it’s important to exfoliate before your airbrush session. You want to be sure you’ve gotten rid of all the dead skin on the surface that were just about ready to wear off, so that the solution won’t be wasted on cells that flake off almost immediately! You’ll also want to avoid water for the first 8 hours after your session so that you don’t wash off the solution before the DHA can fully settle in. While you have your tan, you’ll want to keep your skin moisturized so that it doesn’t dry out and flake off prematurely.