Do Self-Tanners Really Work?

We love a good tan. Who doesn’t? There’s something about having sun-kissed skin that gives you an extra boost of confidence and brightens... Do Self-Tanners Really Work?

We love a good tan. Who doesn’t? There’s something about having sun-kissed skin that gives you an extra boost of confidence and brightens your day. While there are a variety of ways to achieve that golden glow, they’re not all safe. Sunbathing and tanning beds expose your skin to ultraviolet (UV) light, which can cause skin cancer and premature aging.[i]

Luckily, self-tanners, also called sunless tanners, offer a nice tan without the harmful effects of UV light. But do self-tanners really work?

Do self-tanners really work?

If you’re looking for a sun-kissed glow without lying out in the sun or in a tanning bed, good news – self-tanners really work! Their formulas along with proper use darken the shade of your skin without exposing you to UV rays. The effectiveness of a specific self-tanner depends on a variety of factors, including what ingredients were used to make the formula, how concentrated the formula is, and whether or not you’re properly and repeatedly applying the self-tanner. Still, they’re a great alternative to sunbathing, tanning beds and tanning lamps, offering a gorgeous tan quickly, easily and without harmful UV rays.

How does self-tanner work?

Self-tanners are topical products that contain a tanning agent. They’re applied to the skin, allowed to absorb, and darken the appearance of your skin when given time to develop.

Self-tanner is most effective when used as part of a specific process: prep, apply, develop, repeat. To prep your skin for self-tanner application, it’s best to clean and exfoliate your skin in order to remove dead skin cells and create an absorbent surface for your product. While different body scrubs and cloths work, we recommend our Infinity Body Polisher, an exfoliating cloth featuring a versatile, easy-to-use design.

Next, apply the self-tanner. There are many different forms of self-tanner – including lotions, creams, sprays, drops, towelettes and more – and each will have slightly different directions for application. If you’re using CLEANTAN, you’ll add a few drops of the concentrate to your favorite lotion, cream or serum, mix it up, and evenly apply it to your skin until it’s absorbed.

After applying your self-tanner, give it some time to work. Typically, 6-8 hours will be enough time for the product to react with your skin and create that gorgeous shade you’re looking for. 

The results from self-tanner last for a few days, then will fade as your skin sheds dead skin cells. When that happens, repeat the process to keep your tan intact!

Sunless tanner often works with the help of dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. DHA is a plant-derived color additive that binds to the proteins in the top layer of your skin. As the DHA reacts with the proteins, it gives your skin a darker appearance.[ii] The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved DHA for use in cosmetics – including tanning products – with external applications.[iii]

In addition to DHA, a variety of other ingredients can affect sunless tanner’s effectiveness as well as its odor, safety and more. For example, in addition to using ecocert DHA – a natural beet sugar – CLEANTAN uses natural colorants to create plant-based pigments that give you a gorgeous golden-brown color, not an ugly shade of orange. These include cocoa powder, beetroot, caramel and blue green algae, plus squalane for extra moisture.

CLEANTAN also features TEATAN Complex, the base of our formula. TEATAN is made up of green tea, black tea, white tea, rooibos tea, matcha green tea, gotu kola, erythrulose (natural raspberry sugar) and cardamom seed oil to give your skin a healthy dose of antioxidants. CLEANTAN is non-toxic, free of synthetic dyes, and doesn’t have that burnt smell that you get with drugstore self-tanners.

Is sunless tanning safe?

Not all tanning methods are good for you. How does using self-tanner compare to other methods, like sunbathing or using tanning beds? Using self-tanner is considered to be safer than sunbathing or tanning beds, largely due to the lack of UV exposure.[iv]

When you’re lying under the sun or in a tanning bed, ultraviolet light causes damage to the outermost layer of skin. In an attempt to prevent further injury, the skin produces melanin, which causes the skin to darken. While you may be getting a tan, you’re also getting skin damage that can cause cancer as well as signs of premature aging, including dark spots, wrinkles and leathery skin.[v]

Alternatively, self-tanners don’t have these same risks since they don’t expose you to ultraviolet light. DHA has been approved by the FDA for cosmetics with topical use.[vi] However, DHA should not be inhaled[vii], so it may be best to skip the spray tans and opt for a self-tanner in lotion, towelette or drop form.

Benefits of self-tanner

If you’re looking for a tan that comes with a variety of benefits, self-tanner is a great choice. The wide range of self-tanner types and products means you can pick the one that works best for you, whether that’s a lotion, spray, towelette, concentrate drops, or something different. Sunless tanning products are often easy to apply and are portable, making them a convenient option even when you’re on the go.

Self-tanners also offer a customizable tan. Some products are available in a range of shades from light to dark, while others feature a formula that can give you a lighter or darker tan depending on how much product you use. For example, with CLEANTAN, if you want a darker tan, add more drops when you mix it with a lotion or serum. If you want a lighter tan, simply use fewer drops. The best self-tanner will also give you a natural-looking tan, not an obviously fake orange hue.

Using self-tanner also allows you to get a great tan without the harmful side effects of absorbing UV light. If you use CLEANTAN, you also get the benefit of an antioxidant-rich formula.

There are many great reasons to use self-tanners. Perhaps one of our favorites is because they WORK! For an effective self-tanner that also gives you a dose of antioxidants and no odor, visit















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