All about Indoor Tanning Lotions

Indoor tanning lotions are predominantly created to enhance or increase the effects of the sun's UV (ultraviolet) rays on your skin. This is in contrast to protecting or even blocking your skin from these rays, as with sunscreens or protective clothing.

A key component in these lotions is melanin. According to Wikipedia "melanin is the primary determinant of human skin color". The more melanin in your skin, the darker your skin color will be.

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Indoor tanning lotion for that sun bronzed look

Desiring that sun bronzed look without the sun? or just looking to enhance your natural tan? 

For those people who have the right skin to be able to tan, tanning indoors is seen by many as an intelligent way to minimize the risk of contracting sunburn, while maximizing the enjoyment and benefit of having a tan.

Unfortunately, sensible controls that limit the amount of UVA and UVB rays released through the tanning lamps is seldom in place. Also, tanning can be addictive and controlling the amount of time spent under the tanning bed is forgotten about.

Indoor tanning bed warnings

There are many controversies around the use of tanning beds, which should be heeded before any decision on a specific tanning lotion:

  1. Harmful UV radiation emitted from sunbeds has long been recognised as a cause of the most deadly skin cancer, melanoma.
  2. The World Health Organisation has listed sunbeds as one of the most dangerous, cancer-causing habits, alongside smoking.
  3. Many salons suggest no longer than 8 to 15 minutes per session on a sunbed, while some also warn users not to use sunbeds again for 48 hours afterwards.
  4. A study in 2016 found that a ten minute session on a sunbed is twice as likely to cause skin cancer than spending the same time in the midday sun in the Mediterranean.
  5. Many gyms and beauty salons run coin-operated sunbeds which aren't supervised at all, so there is no advice given at all 

Cases of malignant melanoma - the deadliest skin cancer - have doubled in the last decade, according to figures from Cancer Research UK.

Research has previously found that a using a sunbed before the age of 35 increases the risk of malignant melanoma by nearly 90 per cent.

Best indoor tanning lotion results

Be patient

Melanogenesis is a term applied to the increased production of melanin in the human skin. UVB radiation, as opposed to UVA radiation, causes DNA damage that in turn stimulates melanogenesis. The natural protecting response from your skin is to gradually increase the melanin levels in the skin and this produces what we call a suntan. 

The whole melanogenesis process ideally takes time and as such developing a tan becomes a gradual process, not an instant one day wonder. This way in fact, means you will end up with a tan lasting much longer. 

Many people are impatient though and want a tan after only one day in the sun, or one session in a tanning booth and end up getting sun burnt. A sun burn will end up blistering and peeling and leaving the skin raw and you are back to having no increase in the melanin levels in the skin. This not only leaves no tan, but heightens the risk of skin cancer, including the deadly melanoma.

So, for the best tan results, don't treat your tanning like a speed race. Even though you may want that tan yesterday, by overdoing it you will take longer to get to the tan you wanted and because you have acquired a burn as a base (like a scar almost) you will not be able to achieve as dark a tan in the long run.

Healthy skin for best indoor tanning lotion results

Having a healthy skin to start with is a vital aspect of a really great tan.

Quality lotions focus on moisturizing qualities not only while tanning, but for afterwards as well. If the skin is healthy, it has the ability to retain a deeper tan for a longer period of time than if the skin is dry and so more liable to flake and peel.

Besides moisturizing ingredients, other beneficial ingredients typically include vitamins, natural oils, minerals, essential oils, natural butters, anti-oxidants, and natural botanical extracts such as aloe vera. These all aim to help boost the base health of the skin and thus your tanning abilities.

People who use tanning lotions without these added qualities invariably risk drying the skin rapidly, releasing the tanned skin levels in layers - known as 'peeling'.

Tanning is a defensive mechanism

Skin that is not tanned is relatively defenseless against harmful effects of uncontrolled, immoderate exposure to sunlight.

Gradually acquiring a higher level of pigmentation is the best protection against basal cell carcinoma, as your body's tan is its own natural self defence system against any burning by the sun.

Apart from no tanning at all of course!

An indoor tanning lotion should carry a warning that they offer no protection from the sun. Whether you choose to avoid the outdoors or not, is left up to you. The risk of skin cancer is too high in my opinion 

Indoor tanning lotion ingredients

An indoor tanning lotion mostly uses ingredients that promote the production of melanin, either by including melanin itself as an ingredient, or by introducing an ingredient that will increase the flow of blood to the skin, thereby increasing the amount of melanin that is brought to the top layers of the skin.

Theselotions as a rule, do not contain any sunscreen ingredients and as such offer no protection from the sun. This means you are fully exposed to the UV rays and where UVA rays are concerned, a deeper damage can occur without your feeling anything! 

They are also sometimes referred to as "tan accelerators" and are designed to be used specifically with tanning beds.

Melanin and L-tyrosine are very common ingredients found in tanning lotions. Other commonly found ingredients include tea oil, copper (in many different chemical compounds), green tea extract and many other natural oils. However, ingredients will vary widely from one brand to another.

Fragrance does not provide any real advantage to the tanning process but of course it makes the whole experience far more pleasant. In fact, when it comes to choosing between any indoor tanning lotion and another it can be the single differentiator. Tanning indoors mean the aroma will be contained and thus far more pronounced than when tanning outdoors. Some people even choose indoor tanning lotions for their aromatherapy qualities.

Another aspect that affects choice of ingredients is that they must not contain such things as mineral oil as this will damage the acrylic surface of the tanning beds. Many outdoor tanning lotions contain mineral oil, or baby oil, and so are not recommended for indoor tanning.

'Tingle' indoor tanning lotions

'Tingle' is the de facto standard description for an indoor lotion that contains ingredients that help stimulate the microcirculation of the skin by drawing the blood to the skin's surface.

This action causes a tingling sensation on the skin that will vary from one person to another.

However, whether the increase of blood flow at the skin's surface does actually speed up the tanning effect or not, has not been scientifically proven.

Ingredients used to achieve this include irritants or chemicals that cause a reddening sensation and a flushing of the person's skin.

However, there are varying reactions from people to these 'tingle' ingredients, where one indoor tanning lotion may have no effect at all on one person and will actually cause mild pain in another, especially when exposed to the sun.

As such, there is no real rating system for the 'tingle' and so the lotions are just differentiated as being with or without a 'tingle factor'.

The best recommendation with tingle lotions is to start at low levels, gradually increasing them while allowing your body to adapt to the stimulation and avoiding the adverse painful and uncomfortable effects.

Bronzer indoor tanning lotions

If an indoor tanning lotion is called a 'Bronzer', it usually contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is combined with other ingredients to help boost the tanning process.

The combination of ingredients is different to sunless tanning lotions though, as the output is not only to provide for an immediate color, but also allow for exposure to UV light.

When these bronzing lotions are combined with tingle ingredients they are called Hot Bronzers, or with cooling ingredients like menthol, they are known as Cool Bronzers.


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