What IS a tan, anyway?

It’s one of those things you probably wonder about for a minute and then never bother to think about again…  What IS a tan? How does your body change color like that?

Well, wonder no longer! There are a few different ways your body can tan naturally. The most obvious is, of course, from the sun! Light from the sun reaches earth in three forms: visible light, ultraviolet light, and infrared. That second type, ultraviolet light, is classified into three categories:

1. UVC, which doesn’t affect us because it’s filtered out by the atmosphere before it can get to our skin.

2. UVB, which typically causes damage in the form of sunburn.

3.  UVA or black light, which causes tanning.

The problems we associate with sun exposure, such as skin cancer, wrinkles, etc. are mostly caused by harmful UVB rays. Research suggests UVA might have an increasing hand in these things as well, however. Most of the sun’s UV radiation at sea level is of the UVA variety.
UVA can be reflected off of snow or water. Snow actually reflects roughly 90% of UV light, which is why you can get severe sun burns while skiing. Sand reflects up to 20% of UVB too, so at the beach, you’re getting more UV exposure than you would sitting in your backyard. It’s hitting you from above and below! There are certain surfaces that can absorb UV radiation rather than reflect it, such as certain types of glass.

Ultraviolet light in the sun stimulates the production of melanin in our skin. This pigment absorbs UV light, protecting cells from damage. Imagine you put a sponge on top of a piece of paper and slowly dropped beads of water onto it. The sponge would soak the water up before it can ruin the paper. That’s sort of what your melanin does to UV rays. Over time, this protective pigment makes your skin look darker, hence: a tan! Caucasians typically have the least amount of melanin in their skin on a day-to-day basis, but in many other races, there is a continuous melanin production, which causes the skin to remain pigmented and also offers more protection against UV rays on a daily basis.

It’s important to note that all UV rays are potentially dangerous. If you keep dropping water onto that sponge, eventually, it will soak through and damage the paper. That’s fine when we’re talking about metaphorical paper, but not so great when we’re talking about your skin! UV rays can cause deep damage to your cells, which results in painful sunburn at best and fatal skin cancer at worst. It’s important to protect yourself from skin damage by wearing sunscreen when you’re outside. Avoiding direct sunlight is the best way to protect yourself. This really ruins your chance at a tan, though.

There’s one more way that you can get naturally darker skin, however. That’s through DHA.  DHA is a non-toxic, organic compound that creates a chemical reaction within the amino acids in the outermost layer of your skin. This reaction does not involve the underlying skin pigmentation, nor does it require exposure to ultraviolet light to initiate the change in color. It is similar to the maillard reaction which occurs in food. It’s a natural, temporary color that looks just like a tan that occurs from melanin. The active ingredient in airbrush tanning is DHA. The color produced in an airbrush tan typically lasts 7-10 days, but it is much safer than roasting yourself in the sun or using a tanning bed.

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First Time Tanners Welcome!!!!

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There’s a first time for everything! If you’ve never had an airbrush tan before, you might be nervous or curious about what’s involved. Don’t worry, we’re here to make it as comfortable and easy as possible. Here’s what you can expect….

First off, make your appointment. If you’re here in Denver, give us a call at 303-722-4040 to set a time. You can come to us (we’re located in Washington Park) or you can make an appointment for us to come to you! We have a mobile tanning station that we can bring to your home if you prefer the comfort and convenience of tanning at home. Mobile tanning is quick, clean, and a fun girl’s night/bachelorette/birthday/pre-prom party activity too – get everyone together and get a tan!

The day before your appointment, exfoliate your whole body. You want to remove the top layer of dead skin so that you don’t waste solution on skin that flakes right off. Use an exfoliating body wash or scrub down with a washcloth or an exfoliating brush for the best results. Your tan won’t look as even or last as long as it should if you skip this part! Shaving, waxing, facials, manicure/pedicures, massages, and laser treatments should all be done before your tanning appointment. Make sure your skin is as clean as possible before you come in – don’t use any oils, perfumes, or lotions before your session as these can block the solution from penetrating your skin and affect your tan.

When you come in, you’ll meet with your technician and discuss your skin tone and how dark you want your tan to be. Feel free to ask any questions you might have! Trust me, we’re heard it all so don’t be shy! We want you to be as comfortable as possible. The actual tanning process is short and sweet. Wear whatever you’re comfortable with. Some people wear swim suits during their sessions, some don’t. We’re professionals, don’t worry stripping down. We’ve seen it all! Your technician will ask you to move and pose so that they can evenly spray your body. It feels like a cool, light mist and the entire process will be over in roughly 15 minutes or so. The solution dries quickly, but sometimes you might notice a smudge or two on your clothing. We like to recommend that you wear loose, dark clothing if you can, but don’t panic –  the bronzer easily washes out of most fabrics!

After your tan, try to stay dry for at least 8 hours. Avoid showers, pools, and exercise while your tan sets. You’ll also want to keep your skin moisturized. Apply moisturizer daily in the morning and evening to help keep your tan as long as possible. When your skin gets dry, it flakes off and will take your color with it, so keep it smooth and hydrated! Avoid soaps and moisturizers that contain AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) as well as chlorine from pools/hot tubs whenever possible. Long hot showers and baths might also dull your tan. so keep ’em short! You can also apply tan extender solutions that contain DHA – these will help your tan last even longer! We sell these as well, just ask your technician about it.

Then just sit back and enjoy your tan! If properly maintained, your spray tan will last up to 10 days – possibly even longer if you apply an extending solution! Most people are surprised by how quick and easy the whole process is and how great the results are. So don’t be nervous – give it a try!