Tanning Terms Explained

Now that we have access to a wide range of unique sunless solutions, practical tanning terms have evolved far beyond the original three colour basics: light, medium and dark. From choosing the right products to understanding application techniques, expanding your industry knowledge is a quick shortcut to achieving professional-quality colour at home. Here are a few key terms to bring your vocabulary up to speed:

1. DHA – dihydroxyacetone, better known as DHA, is the most commonly used tanning agent in all types of tanning solutions. Naturally derived from sugar, it reacts with amino acids in the outer layers of your skin to produce a safe and temporary bronze colour. Think of DHA as a dark dye – the higher the percentage of DHA in your product, the deeper the tan it creates.

2. Developing time – the time it takes for your colour to fully develop after application. While you should start to see some pigmentation within one hour, don’t rush your first shower. Unless you’re tanning with a professional one-hour solution, you’ll need at least eight hours to lock in your colour and stretch its lifespan to the max.

3. Guide colour – built-in bronzer for even coverage. Tinted tanners are a great example of guide colour. Using a tinted formula with instant bronzers makes it easy to track your application to make sure you never miss a single spot. After your tan is set, simply wash away the guide colour in a warm shower to reveal a flawless, head-to-toe finish.

4. Tanning accelerator – a product that speeds up the pigmentation process. There are two types of tanning accelerators: oils for UV tanning and fast-acting sunless tanners. Opt for the latter to protect your skin from problems associated with sun exposure, including increased risk of skin cancer and wrinkles. When you need colour in a flash, instant bronzers and one-hour tans are the ultimate sunless tanning accelerators.

5. Instant tanner – a tanning solution with immediate results. Instant tanners work by covering your skin with a lightweight layer of temporary bronze. Some are wash-off formulas that last until your next shower, while others are infused with DHA for a longer-lasting tan.

6. Gradual tanner – a hydrating lotion that contains a much smaller amount of DHA per application than standard tanners. Gradual tanners look and act just like DHA-less body moisturisers. Reach for a bottle when you want to build a custom tan over time or create just a hint of sun-kissed colour.