Sunless tanning can give you a really healthy glow - East Valley Tribune: Health

Sunless tanning can give you a really healthy glow

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Posted: Sunday, June 12, 2011 9:09 am | Updated: 9:56 am, Mon Aug 13, 2012.

Sunless-tanning products have come a long way in the 50 years since they first hit store shelves.

While the first incarnations were known for imparting the skin with that telltale orange tinge, some of the formulas on the market today can trick even the most discerning eyes.

"I've had clients tell me their dermatologist yelled at them for spending too much time in the sun," said Marilynn Manfra, owner of Flawless Airbrush Tanning in Cranston, R.I. "If it's done right, it can look so natural."

Options abound, from lotions, wipes and sprays you can use at home to salon-grade mists that are applied automatically in a booth or by a technician with an airbrush machine.

The active ingredient in these products is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a carbohydrate derived from sugar beets and sugar cane that reacts with the amino acids in the outermost layer of skin to create a darkening effect.

DHA was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the 1970s and has no known side effects.

"It gradually darkens you over a period of eight to 10 hours after it is applied," said Cheryl Dumas, owner of Airbrush Tanning Company in Cranston.

Manfra said most clients come to her because they like the look of being tan, but want to avoid premature aging and the increased skin-cancer risk associated with sun exposure.

"I get a lot of people who have had cancer scares ...," she said.

Faux tanning has become a $230 million industry, reported market-research firm Mintel International Group in 2008.

But ultraviolet-tanning beds have hardly become obsolete.

Like many salon owners, Tammy Simpson offers ultraviolet beds as well as sunless VersaSpa tanning booths at her East Providence, R.I. business, Sun Sational Tanning.

Sunless-tanning technology has improved dramatically in recent years, Simpson said, but most of her clients still opt for UV beds.

"I would say probably 30 percent do sunless, but it's on the rise," Simpson said.

Dumas, who doesn't recommend airbrush tanning for young teens because of the somewhat involved preparation and maintenance required, said her clients range in age from 18 to 80.

Salon spray tans typically last for five to 12 days.

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