Dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, is one of the primary ingredients found in sunless tanning products, including Nouvatan. It is a colourless, non-toxic sugar that is derived from plants like sugarcane and beets, which is what gives this ingredient its sweet-smelling odour.

DHA is what causes your skin to go darker when using fake tan. When it meets your skin, a natural reaction takes place – melanoids are created that stain the colour of your skin to a darker shade. DHA reacts with the amino acids that are naturally present on the surface layers of your skin, so the reaction only takes a few hours. This reaction process is the reason why we always say you shouldn’t come into contact with water for a few hours after application, as the product will be washed off before it has had a chance to react with your amino acids.

What does this mean for your tanning routine?

Your skin is constantly regenerating new skin cells. This means that you need to regularly reapply your Nouvatan tanning solution, because self-tanners do not penetrate any further than the top layer of your skin. This is why your fake tan will fade quicker if you exfoliate and wash too much. Give your skin a chance to maintain its sun-kissed look by exfoliating once a week and reapplying your fake tan every few days.

The history behind DHA

The story begins in the 1920s. It was first recognised as a skin colouring agent by German scientists, who had used it in the X-ray process. They noted that when it was spilt, it caused the surface of the skin to turn brown.

Eva Wittgenstein at the University of Cincinnati did further research into DHA in the 1950s. Her studies involved using DHA as an oral drug for assisting children with glycogen storage disease – the children received large doses of DHA by mouth, and sometimes spilt the substance onto their skin. Healthcare workers noticed that the skin turned brown after a few hours of DHA exposure.

“Eva Wittgenstein continued to experiment with DHA, painting liquid solutions of it onto her own skin. She was able to consistently reproduce the pigmentation effect, and noted that DHA did not appear to penetrate beyond the stratum corneum, or dead skin surface layer. Research then continued on DHA’s skin colouring effect in relation to treatment for patients suffering from vitiligo.” – www.spraytanning.net

What DHA is right for you?

Although DHA (dihydroxyacetone) sounds like a nasty chemical, it is very safe for your skin. It has been ruled as totally safe by the FDA and does not cause cancer, unlike harmful UV rays from the sun or sunbeds.

DHA comes in different percentages, which translates to light or darker fake tans. A low percentage of DHA, like the 4% used in our Nouvaglow Gradual Tan Moisturiser, will create a fairer glowing tan than a higher percentage will. Whether you use a self-tanning product or find a professional spray tanner, we recommend choosing a lower percentage if you have pale, white skin. For those with darker skin, we suggest choosing a product with a high DHA percentage, such as our Nouvaglow Gradual Tan Intense Moisturiser, as this will really deepen the colour of your skin.

If you are not sure what product and DHA level is right for you, then please get in touch! We can chat to you about your tanning goals and find the best style of tan, and the right level of dark, for you.

DHA-based sunless tanning has been recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation, American Academy of Dermatology Association, Canadian Dermatology Association and the American Medical Association as a safer alternative to sun-bathing.

Head over to our Instagram to see the beautiful bronze tans Nouvatnners are glowing in around the UK!