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Why do tanning ingredients matter?

Different skin types need different ingredients, but most brands create a product that satisfies a mass market. This means that if your skin is particularly dry, oily or sensitive, the ingredients you're rubbing into your skin might not be right for you.
Luckily we've created the infographic below to tell you why the ingredients are so important, and what you should be doing for your skin type.
why are tanning ingredients so important


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Skin type

Skin type can be split into dry, oily or combination skin. Generally, combination skin is where you don't have particularly dry or oily skin and it means that you can use most tanning products without any problems. In this article we'll only talk about dry and oily skin.


Dry Skin

DHA is the main ingredient in self-tanners which allows your skin colour to change. When DHA is applied to the skin it can have a drying effect and if your skin type is already dry, this can be a problem.

When tanner is applied to dry skin, the tanner may not last as long as expected. This is because dry skin exfoliates quicker, so as the skin exfoliates, your tan starts to fade.

Sometimes this will only be in specific body areas, such as the legs which are frequently shaved, but it can happen to the entire body.

Even worse, your tan will rarely fade evenly if it's fading due to dry skin. The result? A short-lived tan that turns patchy after a few days.

To help your skin remain moist after application you should choose a tanner that includes moisturising ingredients such as:

  • Hyaluronic Acid - Binds moisture to the skin up to 1000 times more than other ingredients.
  • Aloe Barbadensis - Locks in moisture and Its cooling effects reduce acne inflammation and assist in healing.
  • Glycerin - Improves skin’s smoothness and moisture content.
  • Capric Triglyceride - Effective skin-softening ingredient which hydrates the skin and is an antioxidant.

Why ingredients matter


Oily Skin

For people with oily skin, the tan can appear slightly lighter when developed. This is because the oil on your skin creates a barrier to the DHA, causing the tan not absorb as easily into your skin. To help counteract this, it's a good idea to thoroughly wash and exfoliate your skin before you apply the self-tanner.

On top of this, if your skin is oily and can be prone to acne, then it's a good idea to try and avoid Comedogenic emollients (basically Coconut Oil and Avocado Oil). Emollients are ingredients that help your skin feel smooth by filling the space between dead skin cells.

If you are prone to acne then you should look out for the following oils which are alternatives to Comedogenic Oils:

  • Jojoba Oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Squalane

 Why ingredients matter in your tanner

It can also be a good idea to use a skin prep solution before applying the tanner. These can be effective at washing away the excess oils, cosmetics, sweat and lotions from the skin surface. This will allow the tanner to be darker and reduce the chances of an acne breakout.

Sensitive Skin

If your skin sometimes reacts to new cosmetic products, then it's a good idea to avoid self-tanners that contain any alcohols or parabens in their formula. You can do this by only selecting brands that state their product is alcohol-free and paraben-free. It’s also a good idea to avoid artificial fragrances, as these can cause irritation to the skin and are often made from petro-chemicals.

One of the most common artificial fragrances which can cause irritation is Methylene Chloride so ensure your tanning solution doesn’t contain this ingredient!

Unfortunately, a lot of people don't like the unpleasant "yeast" smell produced while the tan develops. We wrote this article on how to remove the fake tanner smell. 

Why are tanning ingredients so important




Increased summer humidity can slow the drying time of your tanner, sometimes resulting in a slightly streaky tan due to rubbing on clothing. This is particularly common in very heavy, Aloe-based or moisturiser-based solutions.

To stop this, try using a light-weight product such as a mist, which will dry faster in the summer seasons. These can be solutions with less Hyaluronic Acid and Aloe-based ingredients.

Higher humidity can also increase sweating which can lead to white areas, dripping and a lighter tan. There are three ways you can stop this:

  • Wear very loose clothing to avoid rubbing.
  • Try to stay cool for as much of the day as possible using air conditioning.
  • Avoid exercise on the day you plan to self-tan.

Why tanning ingredients are so important

Generally if you properly wash your skin beforehand and use a light weight tan, then you don't need to do the three points labelled above.


During the winter your skin is exposed to various stresses such as:

  • Dehydrating indoor heat
  • Cold winds
  • Hot showers and baths

All of these can draw moisture out of the skin and deplete natural oils. This, coupled with the fact that DHA can have a drying effect on your skin, can result in the tan fading earlier than expected and looking patchy as it fades.

 Why are tanning ingredients so important

However, by changing your tanning product, you can remedy these problems and keep your tan looking rich, even in the dry winter months. Below are two things you should aim to do when selecting your "winter tanner":

Changing the DHA percentage in your tanner

As it is DHA which has a drying effect on the skin, you can reduce the percentage of DHA in your product. Yes, this will mean you will have a lighter tan, but it can be worth it to stop your tan going patchy if you have particularly dry skin in winter.

Choose a more moisturising tan

You can also select a more moisturising tan with a higher amount of Hyaluronic acid, Aloe Barbadensis or Glycerin in the solution (Similar to the above point).

Aloe Vera ingredients

These ingredients have moisturising properties and can hugely help to stop your skin from drying out due to DHA. You should also ensure you moisturise daily using in winter body butters and moisturiser creams.

Finally, if you’re applying tan extenders that contain DHA, then make sure you don‘t apply them daily. This can excessively dry your skin out and instead, aim to apply the tan extender every third day.

Did this article interest you? Take our skin quiz by clicking on the button below. You'll receive a free personalised tanning booklet which will give you more information on our different formulations, and what that can mean for your individual skin.

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