Most tanning salons offer sunless tanning options in addition to traditional tanning beds. The most common sunless tanning options offered by tanning salons is spray or airbrush tanning. In these tanning booths, an even coating of the chemical dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is sprayed on the skin. The DHA interacts with dead cells on your skin's surface to darken skin color, simulating a tan. Spray tans typically last up to a week. DHA is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for cosmetic application. The chemicals in salon spray tanning are essentially the same as those you would apply at home, but because they are applied by a machine, the results tend to be smoother and more even. Salon spray tans take about two minutes to apply; the chemicals go on clear, and results appear in as little as four to five hours. One spray session results in color three to four shades darker than your natural skin tone.
Sunless Self Tanning
There are several forms of sunless tanning that you can apply on your own at home. These can be found in lotion, gel and aerosol form, and contain DHA, like salon sunless tanners. While spray (aerosol) sunless tanners are often the easiest to apply -- their spray formula helps them apply evenly -- gels and lotions are also popular, and can be used to slowly build a tan over time. Bronzers are another easy cosmetic sunless tanning option. These, like makeup, wash off with water, and commonly come in powder form. Bronzers are typically not intended for all-over tanning, but are used for creating a quick, subtle glow on pale or dull skin.
The FDA considers so-called tanning pills to be unsafe and has not approved them for use. These pills contain a color additive called canthaxanthin. In large amounts, the chemical can turn skin orange and cause hives. It has been linked to eye damage -- canthaxanthin retinopathy, or crystals in the retina -- and liver damage. Canthaxanthin is a caretenoid pigment, which is like food coloring for the body. It works by coloring fat cells, which then shows through the skin. Other tanning pills include so-called "tanning herbs" or other natural ingredients, but have not been clinically demonstrated to work. Some tanning pills work by making the body more sensitive to sun rays -- thereby increasing the production of melanin -- but this could be potentially dangerous.