Ever wonder how self-tanning lotions do their magical color-changing trick? I mean, what is IN this stuff? Alas, thanks to the Germans, the rest of the world can enjoy a product that actually does what it says without causing freakish side effects. That definitely doesn't happen too often.
Although there are a variety of tanning lotions on the market, the ones that use DHA to actually brown your skin have been proven to be the most effective. Discovered in the 1920s in Germany, DHA, the active ingredient in self tanning lotions, reacts with the natural components in your skin to form a brownish color. As the story goes, some scientist accidentally spilled it on his hand and realized that it turned his hand brown! The FDA has deemed DHA as completely safe for your skin.
Because self tanning lotion will tan the areas that come into contact with it, it is recommended that you wear some sort of protection on your hands when you are applying the lotion. This can sometimes cause streaking so be extra careful. If you don't have gloves of some sort, using your bear hands is fine too. Make sure to wash them frequently though to ensure that your palms and nails don't turn tan. Although the bronzers or body blushes that many self tanning lotions also contain will rub off on clothing and take a while to dry, DHA color actually dries very quickly and won't rub off easily.
It is important to realize that DHA does NOT encourage the formation of more melanin in your body and does not sink into the deepest layers of your skin. Self tanners claiming to be able to do this are usually ineffective and a waste of time. Also, DHA is not meant to come into contact with mucus membranes, so make sure that you are wearing protective nose and eye gear when using spray self tanners.