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Before you can understand how DHA works we must first go through the structure of the skin. Here we outline how the skin is structured so you can understand how it interacts with your spray tan.

Diagram of the skin to show different layers of the skin


The skin consists of 3 layers

The epidermis forms the outermost protective covering of the body.

The dermis lies beneath the epidermis and contains all the main material which supports, all the other structures.

The subcutis (subcutaneous) layer lies beneath the dermis and is made up of fatty tissue which cushions the internal organs against shocks and acts as an insulator and source of energy when required. This fatty layer separates the skin from underlying muscles.

Diagram of the skin to show different layers of the skin


The Epidermis

The epidermis is the upper layer of the skin; the most superficial layer. The epidermis is made up of layered scales. An organised rotational production line converts living cells at the base of the epidermis into dead, hardened, compacted layers of protein (keratin) on the outer surface, taking approximately 200 days for a cell to mature in the epidermis. The life time of a mature cell is between 7-20 days and the replacement time for the stratum corneum (top layer) between 32-36 days.

Every day millions of dead skin cells are sloughed off or worn away from the surface of the skin. This is why tans from self-tanning lotions will gradually fade; as the dead cells are worn away, so is your tan. For this reason, most of these products suggest that you reapply the tanning product approximately every three days to maintain your tan.

Diagram of the skin to show how self tanning works


The epidermis consists of 5 layers

Also known as surface/horny layer. Outer most layer consisting of flattened dead skin cells. It is this layer that is affected by self-tanning products.

Also known as translucent layer. Lies directly underneath the corneum, but not present all the time. Tends to be a translucent layer found in areas that require more thickness or suffer more friction.

Also known as granular layer. Lies underneath the Lucidum. Skin cells breakdown in this layer and keratin is impregnated into the cells. There is a process known as keratinisation whereby cells begin to lose their structure and eventually die.

Also known as prickle cell layer. Lies under the Granulosum and is a living layer of the epidermis which is made up of nucleated cells from the stratum germinativum. This layer rapidly divides as keratin is pushed into them making their cells tough and waterproof.

Also known as the basal layer. This is a living layer that receives its blood supply from the dermis.




Spray tanning involves applying an active ingredient, DHA or dihydroxyacetone, to your skin using a specialist low pressure spray tan machine.
DHA is a sunless tanning agent and is the most popular way of achieving a natural looking tan without being exposed to the harmful UV rays of the Sun and is approved by the FDA for sunless tanning. DHA is a simple carbohydrate which is often derived from plant sources such as sugar cane, also known as fructose, which is then taken through a series of untraceable synthetic processing. It causes a non-toxic chemical reaction with the amino acid groups, which are part of the keratin protein present in the outer most layers of the skin.

Various amino acids react differently to DHA, producing different tones of coloration from yellow to brown. The resulting pigments are called melanoids. These are similar in coloration to melanin, the natural brown substance found in the deeper skin layers after UV exposure, which leads to a delayed development of a natural tan.

The depth of the tan will depend on the % strength of the DHA contained within the product. Overall depth and intensity of tan achieved will also depend on the consumers own natural melanin content and thickness of the skins stratum corneum. Where the stratum corneum is thicker, elbows, knees for example the reaction and tan is more intense, where the layer is thin, the face for example the tan is less intense. In order to achieve a uniform result you must remove loose scales from the skin before applying DHA.

The artificial tan immediately appears on the skin surface and will continue to darken over 24 hours depending on the formulation. Once the darkening effect has occurred, the tan becomes waterproof and will not wash away with soap or water. It will fade gradually over 5 to 10 days, in conjunction with the skins normal exfoliation process. Exfoliation, prolonged water submersion, or heavy perspiration can lighten the tan, as these all contribute to rapid dead skin cell exfoliation.

Another important factor in achieving a fake tan is the pH levels of the skin and formulation. An alkaline pH causes the tan to look orange, whereas a slightly acidic pH reduces this color problem. A surplus of water in any formulation can hinder the tanning reaction; there is optimum water content for each of the formulation and skin required to achieve best results. A balanced formulation understands the importance of maintaining moisture in the skin, the correct pH balance and the odor reaction of protein and DHA. Every Mine product is scientifically proven to work with all of the above mentioned factors, developing a deeper, longer lasting and odorless tanning result.

Refer to each Mine Product for developing and washing times. Some people expect a spray tan to provide UV protection. However, unlike the melanin pigments, the DHA-derived polymers do not absorb significant amount of UV light, and therefore, cannot protect against UVB radiation.

Old image from the 50s showing model getting spray tanned


Where it all began

Fashion and tanning have a long rich history and heritage. Coco Chanel was a fashion innovator with the iconic Chanel suit and little black dress but also gave birth to a new trend in the form of tanning. In 1923, when Coco arrived back from Paris from a cruise in Cannes with a deep tan it become a new symbol, which signified health, wealth and decadent subversive style.

Time passed, and in the fifties saw the very first bikinis, and the “all over” tan became even more popular. Women all over the world ‘baked’ in the sun to get the all over bronzed look.

In 1957, the tanning properties of DHA were discovered in a children’s hospital. DHA was first used as an active ingredient during research on the treatment of diabetics, some of whom tolerated DHA better than glucose. DHA was also administered orally as a treatment of a childhood glycogen-storage disease. When doctors noticed that when children spilt the DHA mixture on their skin, brown coloured spots would appear. One of the female doctors experimented by rubbing the mixture on her skin, and discovered ‘the browning action’ of fake tan.

The 1960’s brought the introduction of the first ‘Fake Tan’. Used with or without the sun, when it was introduced to the market, the ‘orange’ effect caused by the first products left a negative effect on the market. Since then, DHA’s physiochemical properties, tanning mechanics and skin tolerance have been explored, resulting in an improved method of application, a more natural looking tan, making orange body’s generally a thing of the past. Present day production of DHA still relies on fermentation, as it did in the late 1800’s.

Recent years where the effects of the sun have proven to be damaging to the skin, Sunless, Fake Tan, Self Tan and Spray Tanning products have exploded as the safest alternative to achieve an all over bronze tan.


Addressing concerns around spray tanning

In recent media news, several questions have been asked by the media with the over-all safety concerns with spray tanning and the use of DHA.

The most current and informative scientific study available to the tanning industry on spray tanning was performed by the European Commission’s Safety Commission on Consumer Safety (EC SCCS). This concluded that Spray Tan was indeed safe – although should not be heavily inhaled or ingested.

The FDA has also set out recommendations, not mandates, that MineTan fully supports and endorses. When spraying DHA tanning solutions, either by handheld system or through automatic spray booths, the following precautions are suggested:

  • Use of Protective Undergarments
  • Use of Nose Filters
  • Use of Protective Eye Shields
  • Use of Lip Balm

Additionally, although not required by the FDA, as with exposure to all airborne particulates (mist), Mine recommends the use of disposable filtering masks for all sunless technicians during spray sessions, along with their standard over spray filtering equipment.



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