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Tanning oils are used to intensify the effects of UV rays. These oils can work in a number of ways, depending on the brand that is being used. One way that it can be effective in bringing a tan appearance to the skin is to produce extra melanin. Tanning oils that do this usually have melanin as a main ingredient. Another way is to bring a higher level of melanin to the top layers of the skin by increasing the blood flow.

The Basics About Skin

The skin has two levels: epidermis (outside layer) and dermis (inside layer). The epidermis works as a barrier of sorts, to protect the delicate organisms that dwell in the dermis layer. Things like sweat glands, nerve endings and hair follicles can all be found in the dermis layer. Since the epidermis does not have any of those things, and no direct blood supply, this is the layer that is targeted for tanning. The epidermis layer itself is made up of layers. The deepest layer (stratum basale) is usually affected during the sun-tanning process; this is when the skin gets a darker glow from coming in contact of direct sunlight. Using tanning oils and lotions are known as sunless-tanning. For this, the outermost layer (stratum corneum) of the epidermis is usually affected.

How Does It Work?

The most effective tanning oils on the market contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as an active ingredient. DHA is a form of colorless sugar. DHD interacts with dead cells in the outermost layer of the epidermis. As the chemical works into the dead skin, the color of the skin changes. The effects from tanning oils usually last up to 7 days. This is because the same dead skin that the DHA colors wears away. As a matter of fact, the skin on a human body goes through the natural process of eliminating dead skin and developing new skin every 35 to 45 days.

Other forms of sunless-tanning products are lotions, sprays, gels, bronzers and tanning pills. The lotions, sprays and gels work the same way as the oils, by coloring the outermost layer of the epidermis. The pills do this job by distributing canthaxanthin into the body. Canthaxanthin is a color additive, sometimes found in food, which changes the skin to an orange-brown color. The pill form has been linked to dangerous side effects, so be extremely cautious when taking them. Bronzers are the easiest, and most temporary, form of tanner. The effects can be easily washed off, and it is applied like makeup.