Sunless tanning

6 Feb

Since the 1960’s the rise of sunless tanning has risen astronomically.
Links have been made by health authorities between exposure to the sun (as well as sun-beds) and incidences of skin cancer.

As a person who lives in a majorly hot country, blessed with sun most of the year; I have to be careful in the sun; I ensure my makeup base has SPF 15 (Mac foundation in No.18), make sure I drink plenty of water, and don’t tend to sunbathe. I do, however, enjoy having a tan.
I personally avoid tanning booths/sun tanning beds and tanning pills at all costs and if anything, am an advocate for self-tanning moisturisers, tinted lotions and the fare – temporary, wash-off and better for…You!

Items commented on in this blog are opinion only and all come with a large HEALTH RISK.

For the basic scientific factoids and background; Wikipedia says ‘Tanning is the process whereby skin color is darkened or tanned. The process is most often a result of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or from artificial sources, such as a tanning bed, but can also be a result of windburn or reflected light’.
We know that many people consciously tan their skin for different shades, for various reasons. And in turn many people use skin lightening tools.
Some people use sun bathing, some prefer the use of artificial tanning methods.
Some people use chemical products, which can produce a tanning result without exposure to ultraviolet radiation. These are becoming the ‘safest’ and most popular types of products; such as lotions, spray-tans and even tinted moisturisers.

As a society, generally speaking – we are aware that casual exposure to the sun has moderate beneficial impact, including the production of vitamin D by the body. And as time goes on and we become better educated, we realise that excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays has detrimental health effects, including possible sunburn and even skin cancer as well as depressed immune system function and increased risk of accelerated aging.
Many sunless tanning products are available in the form of creams, gels, lotions, and sprays that are self-applied on the skin. Another option is the use of bronzers; cosmetic products that provide temporary effects. There is also a professional spray-on tanning option or “tanning booths” that is offered by spas, salons, and tanning businesses.
Spray tanning does not mean that a colour is sprayed on the body. What is used in the spray tanning process is a colorless chemical, which burns the dead cells located on the top layer of the skin, resulting in a brown color.

Sun beds

A sunbed, or tanning bed is a tool that releases ultraviolet radiation (typically 97% UVA and 3% UVB, +/-3%) to produce a cosmetic tan.
Because of the adverse effects on human health of overexposure to UV radiation, including skin cancer, cataracts, suppression of the immune system, and premature skin aging, the World Health Organisation does not recommend the use of UV tanning devices for cosmetic reasons. In fact, most tanning beds emit mainly UVA rays — which may increase the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Misusing a sunbed by not wearing goggles may also lead to a condition known as arc eye (snow blindness).
Occasional acute injuries occur where users carelessly fall asleep, as in the case of Marty Cordova and Kerry Corum.

A German medical company named Heraeus made the first indoor tanning lamp in 1903 as part of a research study to help patients with Vitamin D deficiencies. Much later, a German scientist, Friedrich Wolff, used indoor lamps in the 1970s to study the effects and potential benefits of sunlight on athletes. When he discovered that his subjects were getting tan as a side effect, the idea was born.

Dr. Wolff introduced and patented his lamps in the United States in 1978. He later sold his company, Wolff Systems, to his brother Jorg, who founded Cosmedico, Ltd., one of the largest manufacturers of low-pressure sunlamps.

A growing trend is the home tanning bed. Many people are now opting to own their own tanning system instead of going to the salon. The primary reasons are for convenience and privacy. As more and more people and establishments seek to ban young adults from commercial salons, home tanning with the control of a system that allows UV by skin type and a timer may encourage additional sales.
The average home system has 16 to 24 lamps, and in US Dollars costs around $2000 to $3000, making its price competitive (over a number of years) for tanners who frequent salons regularly. This has led to an explosion of retailers that feature smaller, home style tanning beds both on the internet and in traditional retail stores.


Although gels, lotions or sprays that contain DHA are said to be the most reliable and useful, there are other types of products on the market. Tanning accelerator; lotions or pills that usually contain the amino acid tyrosine claim that they stimulate and increase melanin formation, thereby accelerating the tanning process. These are used in conjunction with UV exposure. At this time, there is no scientific data available to support these claims. And on a personal level, I would avoid things like this at all costs.

Fake tan lotion/gel/mousse

These are usually known as DHA-based products. These products are available as gels, lotions, mousses, sprays and wipes, some of which also use erythrulose which works identically to DHA, but develops more slowly.

Spray tan/spray-tan booth

Professional spray tan applications are available from spas and salons by both hand-held sprayers and in the form of sunless or UV-Free spray booths. The enclosed booth, which resembles an enclosed shower stall, sprays the tanning solution over the entire body.
DHA has been approved for cosmetic use by the FDA. Because DHA does not use the skin’s melanocytes to make the skin a tan colour, it is recommended as a cosmetic disguising cover for vitiligo patients.

Air-brush tanning

Air Brush tanning is a spray on tan done by a professional. It can last five to ten days fading with every shower. It is used for special occasions or to get a quick dark tan. At-home airbrush tanning kits and aerosol mists are also now available.

Tinted moisturiser

A recent trend is that of lotions or moisturisers containing a gradual tanning agent. A slight increase in colour is usually observable after the first use, but colour will continue to darken the more the product is used.

Wash-off tan

Bronzers are a temporary sunless tanning or bronzing option. These come in powders, sprays, mousse, gels, lotions and moisturisers. Once applied, they create a tan that can easily be removed with soap and water. Like make-up, these products tint or stain your skin only until they are washed off.

Tan powder

As the above, the tan colour can be easily removed with water. Soap&Glory have recently come out with a spray powder.


If you read Tribe of Mannequin’s post on Contouring – look at the bronzing powders etc., these can make a real difference to your look. A subtle sun-kissed look without having for fork out for a professional spray tan, or without going through the hoopla of applying fake tan at home.

Tips/need to knows:
* Tanners can stain clothes. It is therefore important to look for fast drying formulas and wait around 10 to 15 minutes for the product to dry before dressing.
* For the 24 hours after self-tanner (containing high DHA levels, ~5%) is applied, the skin is especially susceptible to free-radical damage from sunlight.

Okay, so there are the technical options and a brief run-down of each. But hey, hold your horses! Let’s look at why. Why are there all of these options? Why do we do this to ourselves?

Historically and culturally

The term “tanning” has a cultural origin, arising from the colour tan. Its origin lays in the Western culture of Europe when it became fashionable for young white ladies to seek a less pale complexion.’

Acquiring a suntan has been popular for many years and is still one of the free and most enjoyable relaxing pleasures in life. However, a golden or dark tan was not always measured as desirable as it is today.

Throughout history, tanning has gone in and out of fashion. In Western countries before about the 1920s, tanned skin was associated with the lower classes, and lower class work, which would have commonly been outdoors.
Women even went as far as to put lead-based cosmetics on their skin to artificially whiten their skin tone. However, when not strictly monitored these cosmetics caused lead poisoning. Achieving a light-skinned appearance was achieved in other ways, including the use of arsenic to whiten skin, and lightening powders. Other methods included the wearing of full-length clothing when outdoors, and the use of parasols. The preference for fair skin continued until the end of the Victorian era.

In 1903, Niels Finsen was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for his “Finsen Light Therapy”. The therapy was a cure for infectious diseases such as lupus vulgaris and rickets. Vitamin D deficiency was found to be a cause of rickets disease, and exposure to the sun would allow vitamin D to be produced in a person. Therefore, sun exposure was a remedy to curing several diseases, especially rickets.

Shortly thereafter, in the 1920s, Coco Chanel accidentally got sunburnt while visiting the French Riviera. Her fans apparently liked the look and started to adopt darker skin tones themselves. Tanned skin became a trend partly because of Coco’s status and the longing for her lifestyle by other members of society.

In addition, Parisians fell in love with Josephine Baker, a “caramel-skinned” singer in Paris. Those who liked and idolised her idolised her dark skin also. These two French women were leading figures of the transformation tanned skin underwent, in which it became perceived as fashionable, healthy, and luxurious.

In the 1940s, advertisements started appearing in women’s magazines which encouraged sun bathing. At this time, swimsuits’ skin coverage began decreasing, with the bikini making its appearance in 1946.

In the 1950s, many people used baby oil as a method to increase tanning. The first self-tanner came about in the same decade and was known as “Man-Tan,” although it often led to undesirable orange skin.

Coppertone, in 1953, brought out the little blond girl and her cocker spaniel tugging on her bathing suit bottoms on the cover of their sunscreen bottles; this is still the same advertisement they use today on their bottles of sunscreen.

In the latter part of the 1950s, silver metallic UV reflectors were common to enhance one’s tan.

In 1962, sunscreen commenced to be SPF rated, although in the US SPF labeling was not standardised by the FDA until 1978. In 1971, Mattel introduced Malibu Barbie, which had tanned skin, sunglasses, and her very own bottle of sun tanning lotion.

In 1978, tanning beds appeared. Today there are an estimated 50,000 outlets for tanning, whereas in the 1990s there were only around 10,000. The tanning business is a five-billion dollar industry in the United States.
Also in 1978, sunscreen with a SPF 15 first appeared.
The 1980’s saw the convertible BMW as ‘The Ultimate Tanning Machine’. The widespread of indoor tanning salons and the launching of California Tan beneficial and protective skin products created a breakthrough in the technology of tanning.

2000 onwards; at the dawn of the new millennium tanning took a new dimension with the entry of Southern movie stars, singers, models and fashion designers with beautiful bronzed swept skins and bodies. The perfect sunless tan is till now, the craze with quality self tanning products.
Today, conscious of the risk of too much sun, thousands of brands of all SPF levels products for adults and children are abounding and eventually, will everybody out in the sun.


Choosing natural
Some of the most beautiful women in the world are not sun-tanned to the high-heavens with an orange tone. The key point here, is that the natural look tends to be most beautiful.
For example if you have natural olive skin, your hair and colouring match for a reason. And that’s beautiful. Someone with light hair and colouring like me would look overdone with Cheryl Cole’s tan for example. Beyonce looks at her most beautiful when she has bronzer on her already gorgeous glowing skin, not when her skin-tone appears more pale in magazines!

Tans gone good


Tanning gone wrong

Tanning addiction

‘Tanning addiction’ is a rare condition where an individual appears to have a physical or psychological addiction to sunbathing or the use of tanning beds. The mechanism of the compulsion is unknown at this time.
Accordingly to Wikipedia, in 2005, a group of dermatologists published a study showing that frequent tanners experience a loss of control over their tanning schedule, displaying a pattern of addiction similar to smokers and alcoholics.
Biochemical evidence indicates that tanning addicts are addicted to an opioid release experienced during tanning. When frequent tanners took an endorphin blocker in a 2006 study, they experienced severe withdrawal symptoms, while infrequent tanners experienced no withdrawal symptoms under the same conditions.

‘Tanorexia’ is the term often used to describe a disorder in which a person participates in extreme tanning to achieve a darker skin complexion because they perceive themselves as unacceptably pale. The syndrome is different than tanning addiction, although both may fit into the same syndrome and can be considered a subset of tanning addiction.
Serious cases of tanorexia can be considered dangerous because many of the more popular methods of tanning (such as those mentioned above) require prolonged exposure to UV radiation, which is known to be a cause of many negative side effects, including skin cancer.
Although the term “tanorexia” has been commonly used by the media and several doctors to describe the syndrome, both the word and syndrome have not been widely accepted by the medical community, and is considered slang by many.
Extreme instances may be an indication of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a mental disorder in which one is extremely critical of his or her physique or self-image to an obsessive and compulsive degree. As it is with anorexia, a person with BDD is said to show signs of a characteristic called distorted body image.

Recent reviews

Me without any fake tan (2004):

Me with fake tan (2011):

Me with bronzer (2012):

Temporary fake tan
Step by step: TO COME SOON!
Wash, Exfoliate, Moisterise, Mitt up and tan!
Stay away for clothing and objects until dry, around 15 minutes. I find painting nails at this time, or tidying/organising items in your bathroom passes the time ☺.

Most importantly of all, be happy in your own skin, you only have one set, treat it like a temple and don’t abuse it :).

Thank you for reading, come by again soon!

Kirstiie @ Tribe of Mannequins

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11 Responses to “Sunless tanning”

  1. Jen February 6, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

    Wow what a post!

  2. Mariana February 6, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    This is really interesting, thank you!
    I’ve always thought about which types to use, I will definitely avoid pills too!

  3. Cherry February 7, 2012 at 1:35 am #

    Your fake tan looks great and VERY natural!

    • Tribe of Mannequins Creator February 7, 2012 at 9:02 am #

      Thank you Cherry! I use a light-to-medium one, and avoid ‘darker’ ones at all costs, of course it would look crazy obvious on me.
      I use lotion/cream/gel ones. Not really mousses as they tend to be a bit streaky.

      Also, I think it’s good lighting in the pic, that always helps! :)

  4. Stef February 10, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    like it

  5. Caron Dowell March 27, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    I have to say I enjoyed this article. This day and age there are many “safe” ways to enhance your natural colour without the need to use sunbeds and their harmful UV rays. Sadly I still see young girls coming out of these tanning salons and my heart sinks and what long term effect this bad practice will have on their health and skin.

    • Tribe of Mannequins Creator April 3, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

      Hi Carol,

      Thank you for your comment. It is such a shame when you see people going in and out of tanning salons, using the UV lighted booths/beds. I hope that even if one girl reads this article, it may assist to change her mind about using them.

  6. Noobie December 2, 2012 at 3:54 pm #



  7. best spray tan solution June 27, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    I am no longer positive where you are getting your info, however
    good topic. I needs to spend a while studying much more or understanding more.
    Thanks for fantastic info I used to be on the lookout for this information for
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