There are many different types of sunless tanning lotions designed to give the user a healthy natural glow without the damage caused by the sun. Self-tanner selection is primarily a matter of personal preference, depending on the skin darkness desired, as well as application technique and washability, among other issues. The term "tanning lotions" may also be used in reference to a product that is applied to the skin to encourage tanning before laying out in the sun or in a tanning bed, but this is less common.
The first type of tanning lotion is a simple bronzer. This is similar to foundation, and is a type of makeup that is typically applied only to the face to make the skin look more golden and tanned. It is easy to apply, and is then typically washed off at the end of the day.
Most tanning lotions, however, last longer than bronzer. They contain an ingredient known as dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, which is a carbohydrate similar to sugar that interacts with dead skin cells, turning them brown. This is the most common ingredient used in self-tanning lotions. Most tanning lotions offer varying shades of darkness, and this is typically in direct proportion to the amount of DHA included in the product. Remember to always wash the hands after applying any tanning lotion, to prevent telltale orange palms. Uneven skin, such as skin with a sunburn, may not tan properly with any type of tanning lotion.
Among the most common kinds of tanning lotions is a daily moisturizing lotion designed to provide a gradual tan. When applied every day, the lotion will moisturize the skin while slowly darkening it, over a period ranging from a few days to a week. Continuing to apply the lotion will help the tan to last longer; the effect from this type of tanning lotion is typically fairly light and natural, and mistakes such as orange streaks do not generally occur. In addition, this type of lotion often includes sunscreen to further protect the skin.
Another type of tanning lotion is an instant self tanner. These may be sold in a gel, lotion, or spray form, and are applied as evenly as possible to clean, exfoliated skin. The tan will appear in a few minutes to a few hours, and this type of tanning lotion often creates a darker tan. It is much easier to make a mistake with this type of tanning lotion, so it is important to go slowly and carefully during the application process. If a self-tanning lotion does not contain sunblock, remember to use one every day to prevent burns and skin cancer.