Sunless Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions about Sunless Tanning
How does sunless tanning work?
The principal tanning agent used in all sunless tanning formulas is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). This ingredient does not produce a “real tan” by increasing the skin’s melanin levels; rather it creates a tanned appearance by developing a brown color on the surface of the skin. The action of DHA is limited to the upper layer of the skin and involves a reaction between DHA and skin proteins and oxygen that produces brown compounds. This process is similar to what occurs when you slice open an apple and the surface of the apple browns when it’s exposed to the oxygen in the air. The development of color takes anywhere from 2 to 4 hours and the intensity of color depends upon the DHA concentration in the product as well as each tanner’s individual skin characteristics. The color developed by the DHA usually lasts 5 to 7 days and begins to fade as the top layer of the skin naturally exfoliates.

How long will my sunless tan last?
The longevity of a sunless tan depends on the type of self-tanning application, the skin’s natural exfoliation process, and on the skincare regimen followed before and after application. On average, sunless tans last 4-7 days. A professionally application, I.e. a sunless tan received at a salon or spa, will last longer than an at-home application as there is usually a greater percentage of DHA used. The “life span” of a sunless tan also depends on your skin’s natural exfoliation. The faster your skin turns over, the faster the sunless tan will fade. The tan created by the DHA affects only the top layer of the skin and will begin to fade after 4 to 5 days as the skin naturally begins to exfoliate. Following a good skin care regimen before and after sunless tanning will help a sunless tan last longer. Exfoliating prior to a sunless tanning application and keeping skin moisturized afterwards are essential.

How long should I wait after spray tanning before I shower?
DHA solutions take about 16- 24 hours to fully develop. Clients will receive the best results if they can avoid bathing until the day after their sunless session. If they must bathe, they should wait a minimum of 8-10 hours after the application. If showering prior to the 16-24 hour post application recommendation, a simple rinse with water only, is best. Soap destroys DHA. Delayed bathing allows the DHA bronzer sufficient time to complete its reaction with the amino acids (proteins) within the skin. Why is keeping the skin moisturized essential to maintain great sunless results? It is important to keep skin moisturized after sunless tanning as dry, flaky skin will slough off faster and color will fade sooner. Your goal is to basically slow down your body’s natural exfoliation process. Sunless tan-extending products with a light self-tanning bronzer, help hydrate the skin and maintain even, natural-looking color longer by providing subtle bronzers.

Will the bronzers from a spray tanning application rub-off on my clothes?
If you are using a spray solution with a cosmetic bronzer (water-soluble make-up), some of the bronze color may rub off on clothing or bed sheets. This is most likely to happen when you get dressed immediately after tanning. To minimize the chance of the bronzers transferring to clothing, we recommend you wear loose-fitting, darker clothes after your spray session. Try to refrain from physical exertion that could result in your sweating until you shower and wash off the cosmetic bronzers.

Spray Tanning 101
Will I turn 'Orange'?
When used as recommended, Norvell’s sunless tanning products are formulated to give a natural, just off the beach color, starting with our perfectly blended instant cosmetic bronzers that allow you to gently transition into your DHA tan over 24 hours after application. High pH levels in the skin can sometimes give individuals an undesirable, ‘fake’ non-natural looking sunless color. Sunless application on skin that is out of balance due to high pH levels sometimes results in what many people refer to as an ‘orange’ coloring. To prevent this from happening, there are a few things you can do:
  • Do not use bar soaps before your sunless session. A properly pH balanced skin cleanser will not elevate pH levels on the skin, and result in more ‘golden brown’ sunless tanning results.
  • Norvell® recommends spraying the body with Pre Sunless pH Balancing Spray prior to any sunless application. This product is formulated to lower the pH levels of the skin giving a more golden brown color, and maximizing your sunless results.

What is DHA (Dihydroxyacetone)?
DHA is an acronym for Dihydroxyacetone. DHA is the active ingredient found in all sunless tanning products. It is a simple carbohydrate that is primarily used as an ingredient in sunless tanning products. It is often derived from plant sources such as sugar beets and sugar cane, and by the fermentation of glycerin. DHA does not make your skin cells darker in pigmentation, but rather reacts with the proteins and amino acids found in the top layer of your skin to create a darkening effect or ‘sunless tan’.

What about the after-odor often associated with sunless tanning?
Norvell® professional sunless solutions and Norvell® retail self-tanning products use advanced DHA odor encapsulation, the newest technology in odor inhibitors, to ‘trap’ odor causing molecules commonly associated with DHA products and virtually eliminate sunless odor

How should I prepare for a sunless spray tan?
Preparation and maintenance of your sunless tan is the KEY to sunless success. Make sure to read our online sunless preparation and maintenance guide prior to your sunless application.

Follow these important steps to ensure maximum sunless results:
1. GENTLY exfoliate your skin prior to your sunless spray session. A gentle, sulfate-free skin polish, such as can be used prior to your sunless session. 2. Any waxing or shaving should be performed 24 hours in advance of applying sunless products. 3. Remove any ‘barriers’ that may prevent the sunless product from absorbing into the skin evenly. These include, but are not limited to: make-up, deodorant, perfume, oils, moisturizers, residue from hair conditioners 4. Optimize your skin surface pH levels prior to application. Do not use bar soaps prior to your sunless tan, and be sure to purchase the Ph Balancing Spray, it works on the skin surface 3 ways: 1. Boosts amino acid levels, which work directly with DHA to maximize sunless color results, 2. Balances the pH on skin to reduce any ‘orange’ coloring and produce golden brown results, and 3. Hydrates the skin for even and maximum absorption of sunless solution.

Will sunless solution stain my hair?
Most people will not see any affect to the color of their hair; however, those with light blonde, gray or platinum hair may see some temporary discoloration from the cosmetic bronzers. This discoloration will easily wash out during the first after session shower. A hair cap may also be worn during application. Note: when wearing a hair cap, make sure to pull the cap back to expose the edge of hairline and tuck the cap behind the ears. Otherwise you will create a hard line around the forehead and temples

How can I prevent patchy or uneven wear-off?
Many individual factors can contribute to patch or uneven wear-off, as each person’s skin is different. It is also recommended that individuals not tan more than 3 times in a 2 week period, to avoid build-up of tanning solution that will contribute to uneven wear-off.

How long after tanning should I wait to enjoy a pool/spa/ocean?
We recommend avoiding these situations for the first 48 hours following your spray tan. Chlorinated pools & spas can increase the rate in which the skin exfoliates causing the tan to wear and fade rapidly.

How long does a spray tan take to dry?
The solution should be dry after the drying session in the booth.

How dark will my tan appear after one application?
Results will vary based on the individual’s skin type and pH balance. Norvell® solutions have been formulated to provide a color that will be appealing to the majority of sunless tanners, and a variety of shades will allow you to find the perfect solution for your individual needs.

Common Skin Conditions & Medical Concerns
Can pregnant women be safely sprayed?
Norvell® Sunless Spray Solutions are non-toxic, and utilize only Eco-Cert® DHA which has been vigorously tested and certified organic by the Group Eco-Cert®.

Each Norvell® solution is:
  • Paraben Free
  • Gluten Free
  • Sulfate Free
  • Sulfate Free
  • Nut-Allergen Free
  • Propylene Glycol Free
  • Phthalates Free
  • Synthetic Fragrance Free

Will sunless solution cause additional freckling to already freckled skin?
No. However, the spray does not cover freckles up either. What is darker will stay darker and what is lighter, stays lighter in contrast.