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It’s that time of year again. A time to tan. There are a lot more of you out there doing your own research when it comes to what is safe to apply to your skin. However, the online information out there regarding sunless tanning ingredients can be very confusing because it is full of contradictions. I thought I would try to help by highlighting what I think is important when it comes to health and tanning.

I was 100% my own guinea pig in the beginning when it came to trying to achieve the perfect tan. Ohhhh if you could have seen me then. I first discovered self tanning the same summer Pretty Woman came out in theatres. I remember applying it at summer camp and forgetting to wash my hands after. A few years later I worked in the fitness industry so everyone was going way overboard with their tanning. It is somewhat of a prerequisite to fitness competitions and a tan accentuates all the hard work one has put in at the gym. I remember attending a competition with a friend. Her boyfriend was competing so she and I were excited to go and we spent a lot of time deciding what to wear. She ended up purchasing a cute little white top. Her boyfriend came.out just after the show and I was shocked to see that the ‘normal-looking’ depth of tan he had on stage looked totally different off stage. It almost looked like he had mixed turmeric and cacao powder and smeared it all over. When my friend spotted her bf she went over and gave him a big hug. His ‘tan’ came off very nicely on her cute little white top and she told me later that it never came out.


What I didn’t like about DHA (dihydroxacetone)

That was probably my biggest complaint in the beginning was the staining of hands, drier areas of the body, and on the inside of clothing. I was not yet concerned about what was in the formula I was using. The other thing I did not like was how the tan wore off. It would fade in patches instead of the way a natural tan fades – smoothly. So you either want to accelerate the tan fading by doing a light scrub, or make sure that you have a real base tan underneath so that the patches are not quite as noticeable. When it comes to a special event you do not want to be in this phase. The tan looked best and was darkest a day or two after application. So the life span of the tan required some meticulous planning.

Then there became a phase in my life where I felt I needed to switch up a lot of my products to more natural alternatives so when I started researching healthy DHA tanning formulas, I came across ‘spray tanning’. I was immediately really interested in it because I saw it as something artistic just like makeup. I purchased my own kit and spray tanned clients on the side for a short time. I did feel that the formula was healthier than what I had been purchasing from drug stores. What did not sit well with me though was how much of the formula my client and I could possibly being inhaling. You can only hold your breath for so long and even in a well ventilated room. So I eventually ditched the spray tan and went back to my favourite drug store brand. Something that I really missed about it though is that for a few days after a spray tan, the skin looks amazing and has a natural glow to it on top of being tanned. The drugstore brands did this a little but whatever similar ingredient or ingredients which was creating this effect seemed diluted. I wasn’t sure if it was just because the formula was THAT good. I was able to figure out the reason for this and will address it later in this post.

So I was missing the skin health benefits from the natural spray tan formula (DHA-based) but by this time there were a lot more sophisticated self tanning brands to try so I was experimenting and enjoying the fact that I did not have to carry an entire spray tanning kit around to maintain my tan. I still wasn’t too crazy about the staining of my clothes. Again, the tan had to be meticulously planned in order not to ruin sheets or clothing. This also happened with the spray tan so I was used to it by this time.

The thing that started annoying me the most about DHA formulas did not actually bother me until I stopped using synthetic perfumes and tried to avoid products with the ingredient ‘parfum’ in it. It seems that when you stop using synthetic scents, you become a lot more sensitive to them. It is like your nose gets a detox but suddenly every scent that is not natural gives you a huge headache. So, to me, it felt like a double edged sword, a blessing and a curse. I noticed the strong smell of deodorants and skincare, especially the ones where they were trying to cover up a chemical smell that was not attractive by adding ‘parfum’.


skin sensitivity can arise from a range of different factors:

Allergies vary – it could be that you are sensitive to perfume, alcohol or in some cases DHA (dihydroxacetone). If it is DHA that you are sensitive to, that is where my CARAMEL TAN (without requesting the DHA option) comes in. I started to feel like I was reacting to the DHA in formulas but it could have been the alcohol or perfume. What steered me away from the DHA based formulas was the smell (which I do not experience with my new DHA formula). My nose told me I needed to stop wearing DHA formulas. I experienced itchiness on my legs a couple hours after I would apply a formula would have been the next thing to drive me crazy (now I wonder if it was the bronzer or tracer colour in formulas to show you where you applied your ‘tan’).


What I miss (missed as I have a new DHA formula!) about DHA

Nothing will achieve a darker tan than a DHA-based formula except maybe a real tan. I miss that intensity at times, but with it came the patchy look and all of the above so I am okay with it. For someone who has a medium skin tone, I let them know that they are not going to get that deep, dark tan with the CARAMEL TAN. It is not for everyone. It  has four levels and three different formulas so that those with extra fair skin and those with sensitivities can achieve a real-looking tan too. The colour is a little different too. DHA has more natural undertones of a medium on medium to dark skin tones while my formula is more natural looking for extra fair skin tones.


What I love the most about my DHA-free formula

I created a formula without any type of bronzer in it. This is what creates 90% of the staining on clothes. It also means less ingredients to worry about being sensitive to, but it also gives you the option on my product page to add a little hint of colour if you feel you need a tracer colour (it is carrot seed, not a synthetic bronzer). to see where you have applied your ‘tan’. DHA can be very dehydrating in itself and if someone already has psoriasis or eczema it’s not an ideal combination. If your skin is on the dry side already I would recommend my caramel tan as an alternative. You can also choose the perfect customized formula for you. If you are also planning to get some real sun, my custom cacao tan is really cool concoction of health boosting properties as well as a way to boost your body’s natural ability to tan.


The marketing of antioxidants has us all confused

I had also mentioned how the spray tans seemed to make my skin glow and my clients agreed with me. At first I had thought that it may be because of the ingredients, but my CARAMEL TAN has completely different ingredients from the spray tan formula I used and yet it does the same thing. You will notice your skin is more soft and it looks like you just had a facial or sauna. In my opinion, it is due to the very property that is scaring people away from self tanning. A self tan works like an oxidant on the skin because it is a natural oxidant. If you look into ozone therapy or even just breathe work or sun gazing, all of these act like oxidants in the body.The skincare world is all about antioxidants, which are absolutely beneficial, but I think the holy grail is a balance of antioxidants and oxidants. Ozone, and even water, in very high amounts, can harm and even kill someone. It’s more about healthy levels. I spoke to a chemist who assured me that you would have to be applying A LOT of self tanner to reach those dangerous oxidant levels. A few free radicals never hurt anyone.


How do free radicals affect the body and vice versa?

Free radicals are formed naturally in the body as a byproduct of metabolism (oxidation). They can also be formed through external factors like smoking and pollutants. Let me break down the causes of free radicals from natural processes within the body to outside factors.

Natural cause External cause
metabolic functions cigarette smoke
exercise pollution
inflammation pesticides
illness or infection radiation
stress industrial chemicals
certain drugs

Free radicals may sound like a bad player in the health game but they’re also a natural part of your body’s function. For example, exercise creates free radicals but in general the mental and physical benefits of exercising will most likely outweigh the downsides of free radicals. So why are people freaking out over free radicals and trying to control them? It’s because when you have too many free radicals that your body can’t regulate, a condition known as oxidative stress happens. What is oxidative stress? Oxidative stress means that free radicals are triggering chain reactions in your body where proteins, lipids, and DNA are being altered. These alterations can increase your risk for a number of diseases.


So are free radicals ever good?

Actually, yes. Sometimes. The body uses free radicals for good. This includes killing pathogens and regulating cell growth. The immune system, for example, takes advantage of free radicals’ cell-damaging qualities and uses them to destroy pathogens. Pathogens are disease-causing organisms such as bacteria and viruses. Additionally, free radicals are crucial to many other bodily functions — including cell growth and death, stress responses, and metabolism. Depending on your overall health, minimizing free radical production may be as simple as lifestyle and diet choices. For example, antioxidants are one of the best defenders of free radicals and can easily be achieved through whole foods. This isn’t 100 percent foolproof, however, and can also vary widely based on your genetics as well as pre-existing conditions. Keep in mind there’s also no specific antioxidant that targets free radicals. It’s more about incorporating more holistic health choices and managing stress. Don’t focus on trying to reduce free radicals, focus on holistic health. Since free radicals are natural and unavoidable, you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to eliminate them (without success). We cannot actually fine tune the process of oxidative stress yet. We also understand that marketing has exploited our fear of free radicals (hey, they gotta sell those antioxidant products somehow), so if you have a condition and/or disease, it’s best to talk to a doctor about how to manage and treat your symptoms first rather than focusing on free radicals. And since free radicals can be produced through environmental and mental factors, there are some holistic health tips that can help with your stress levels.

  • Develop a regular exercise routine. This can lead to higher natural antioxidant levels and decreased damage caused by oxidative stress.
  • Increase intake of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables
  • Practice stress management and coping skills.
  • Decrease your alcohol intake.
  • Get enough sleep.
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