People swarm the beaches and tropical islands during the summer not only to swim and surf but also to bask under the sun for that perfectly bronzed skin. While the affluents easily spend bucks for pricy sessions at a tanning salon for a more immediate tan, some people plump for the more economical option: tanning oil.

Tanning oils come in two types: one with SPF protection and the other with none, which others refer to as indoor tanning oils. Despite such difference, tanning oils make great catalysts for that beautiful sun-kissed glow. But how does tanning oil work?

How Tanning Oil Works

Although there is a wide variety of tanning oils in the market – with many different packaging, fragrances and brand names available, they relatively work by the same principles. One, intensifying the concentration of UV rays on the skin; Two, chemically interacting with the skin dead cells in the epidermis; and Three, increasing blood flow to the skin's surface to increase melanin levels.


1. Intensifying Concentration of UV Rays

This mechanism is very common in tanning oils. What it does is attract extra attention of ultraviolet (UV) rays to the skin thereby amplifying its effects. Because melanin absorbs UV rays as a natural protective defense, melanocytes start to produce higher amounts of melanin when more UV rays penetrate the skin. You already know what melanin does, right? Melanin is the dark pigment that is responsible for tanning. So the more melanin is produced, the darker or tanner the skin gets.

2. Chemical Interaction With Dead Cells

Our skin is comprised of 3 layers: epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin. It is the one we can see and touch and it serves as an overall barrier and first-line of defense. The dermis and hypodermis, on the other hand, are the inner layers where you can find nerve endings, connective tissue and sweat glands among others.

Since the epidermis contains none of those and has no direct blood supply, it becomes the target for tanning. There is, however, a significant difference on tanning via direct sunlight and tanning via tanning oils. You see, the epidermis itself is composed of layers. The deepest layer, which is the stratum basale, is the one that's really affected when the skin gets in contact with direct sunlight. In contrast, what's really affected when using tanning oils is the outermost layer or stratum corneum.

Tanning oils that work by this mechanism primarily hold generous amounts of an active bronzing ingredient called dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA is a simple carbohydrate that chemically reacts with the amino acids in the dead skin cells on the stratum corneum. This chemical interaction produces a bronzing effect that lasts for about 7 days or until the skin sheds off those dead cells.

3. Increased Blood Flow To Increase Melanin

When UV rays pierce through the skin, our immune system instinctively increases blood supply to the affected area. This increase in blood supply results in a warm and reddish skin. Furthermore, increased blood flow at the skin level also stimulates melanin production.

Have you heard of tingle? Some tanning oils contain ingredients like L-tyrosine and green tea extract that bring a higher level of melanin to the epidermis by increasing blood flow. They are called "tingle" by some due to the tingling sensation they cause when applied to the skin.

How does tanning oil work if it has an SPF?

While most tanning oils do not come with an SPF, some companies still find SPF important in their products. Why wouldn't they? Contrary to popular belief, even though SPF blocks the sun rays out, it doesn't interfere significantly with tanning.

UV radiation is part of the light spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. It comes in various wavelengths where the shortest ones are invisible to the naked eye and the longer ones are long enough to penetrate the earth's atmosphere. These wavelengths are divided into 3: UVA, UVB and UVC. You've probably heard about this but just to give you a rehash, UVC rays are the shortest of the three. They do not reach the earth as they are being absorbed by the ozone layer.

UVB rays are the mid-range UVs that can penetrate the earth's surface reaching up to our epidermis. They can damage the superficial skin cell layers thereby causing sunburn and they are also known to play a major part in skin aging and skin cancer. You know that "immediate tan" you get when you check your tan lines while lying on the sunbed? Well, UVB rays caused that and that's definitely not the "tan" that will last for days yet.

What are really responsible for tanning are UVA rays. UVA is the longest of all and can reach deeper into the skin. They are believed to cause wrinkles and instigate acceleration of skin aging and considered to be generally less carcinogenic than UVB.

SPF stands for Sun Protective Factor. It is used to evaluate how much UV rays a specific sunscreen will block. Regular sunscreens block UVB rays and not UVA rays. An SPF 15 means that when all exposed skin is covered with ample sunscreen, only 1/15 of the sun's UVB rays will reach the skin. An SPF 30 means that only 1/30 of the sun's UVB rays will reach the skin. To cover both UVA and UVB, look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

What are examples of good tanning oils?

Tanning oils with SPF:

Sun Bum Moisturizing Tanning Oil  

Australian Gold SPF 4 Spray Oil 

Tanning oils without SPF:

Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Moisturizing Oil 

Australian Gold Dark Tanning Accelerator 


Tanning oils are becoming popular nowadays. Not only are they more effective than lotions, they are also way more affordable (not to mention safer) than tanning beds. Because they intensify the effects of UV rays, I guess it's safe to say that tanning oils with SPF are better. This way, we can protect our skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation and at the same time get that sexy sun-kissed glow. However, some claims that SPF-less tanning oils work better. Whatever works for you and whatever floats your boat, just make sure to tan safely. Stay golden! Còn để đoạn dài, nên tách ra 1 đoạn tầm 80-90 chữ là ok Mắc 1 số lỗi nhỏ ngữ pháp, đặc biệt là mạo từ

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Leave a Comment: