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Spray tanning is a spray made from a solution with a natural chemical called Dihydroxyacetone (DHA). This is made from sugar beets, sugar canes and glycerine. German scientists first discovered Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) in the 1920’s when it was being used for other purposes. Whenever it spilled on their hands, the area turned brown. In 1950’s another scientist from the University of Cincinnati was giving this ingredient to children who had glycogen storage disease. Whenever they spat it up, the areas it spilled on their skin turned brown within an hour. Since then studies have been done and advanced technology today helped bring us to spray tanning solutions. The American Federal Drug Administration (FDA) confirms this method of skin tanning is completely safe.

As of yet the United Kingdom does not have an equivalent site.


Some products use erythrulose combined with DHA. Erythrulose works identically to DHA on the skin surface, but develops more slowly. The two chemicals used together may produce a longer lasting sunless tan.


Dihydroxyacetone or erythrulose may cause contact dermatitis. First time users of sunless tanning products are advised to apply the product to a small patch of skin and wait 24 hours before a full body application.

Many self-tanners use chemical fragrances, which may cause skin allergies or may trigger asthma. Furthermore, some of them contain parabens. Parabens are preservatives that can affect the endocrine system.


For the 24 hours after self-tanner (containing high DHA levels, ~5%) is applied, the skin is especially susceptible to free-radical damage from sunlight, according to a 2007 study led by Katinka Jung of the Gematria Test Lab in Berlin. Forty minutes after the researchers treated skin samples with high levels of DHA they found that more than 180 percent additional free radicals formed during sun exposure compared with untreated skin.


Here is a list of ingredients for su-do and their common name or uses


Aqua - Water

propylene glycol – a common moisturiser in medicines and cosmetics

dihydroxyacetone – (DHA) see above

ethoxydiglycol – a solvent and carrier

glycerin – a moisturiser and a solvent

PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil – Emollient (softens and soothes)

Aloe Barbadensis – is said to soothe, serve as an anti-inflammatory, be anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. (not proven)

Panthenol - panthenol is a humectant (increases solubility and skin penetration in active ingredients), emollient and moisturiser.

Parfum (Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene, amyl cinnamal) – added scents

Phenoxyethanol - An anti-bacterial preservative

Diazolidinyl urea - an antimicrobial preservative

Methylparaben - a preservative in cosmetics that is effective against a wide range of bacteria and fungi.
Citric acid - used in cosmetics to adjust the ph level to prevent personal care formulas from becoming too alkaline. It also acts as a mild acidic preservative and gentle exfoliant for skin.
Butylparaben – an anti-fungal preservative

C.I.19140 – Tartrazine or yellow dye

C.I.17200 – red dye

C.I.16035 – red dye

C.I.16035 – don’t know why this is repeated on the bottle?


So as you can see this product has a whole list of preservatives, colours, emollients, moisturisers and solvents along with the DHA.


Each spraytan you use will have a different list of ingredients, some more than others.  It is a good idea (once you have found a spraytan you like) to keep a list of the ingredients somewhere to hand.  Check from time to time to see if the manufacturer has changed or added any new ingredients, then if you do start having problems, you will at least have some idea if it is something specific to the spray tan you are using.


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