Pure & Natural Handcrafted Naturopathic Skin Care

Fake Tans, DHA & Erythrulose

The Sunless Tanning Era

Unnatural tanning solutions have become big business since the sun has been touted the Bad Boy of cancer by government agencies around the world.  The beauty industry is full of crèmes & lotions, oils & sprays which promote sunless tanning & many if not most of these products, also promote the use of sunscreens in conjunction with their fake tans.  This is a serious shift into the realms of the UNNATURAL, with a population really believing the sun is bad for health, skin & beauty; preferring to risk their health with chemical alternatives & little to no sun exposure.

So here we have a market driven trend of paying money to put toxic chemicals on the skin to mimic a tan without sun exposure.  The fear of the sun & perpetration of the sun causing cancer has driven this sunless tanning era & created this Frankenstein style monster of epic proportions.  Fake tanning products are full of synthetic chemical additives & active chemicals such as dihydroxyactetone & erythrulose; which in combination cause the skin to look really artificial with that well known uneven discolouration look.  The pungent smell that lingers with the application of fake tans is infamous & unmistakable.  Some more natural brands have decreased these unwanted side effects by increasing natural ingredients in combination with the use of DHA & or Erythrulose; touting their product lines to be natural & organic.

Despite increasing concerns in relation to scientific studies showing considerable health risks with fake tan usage, sales keep rising worldwide; with US revenue from self-tanning product manufacturing industry in 2014 grossing US$775.3 million & tanning salons US$3 billion. Tanning Salons Market Research Report | NAICS 81219c | Aug 2014

Dihydroxyacetone-DHA Explained

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is an active ingredient in all chemical tanning agents & most fake tans. (It is very different & must not be confused with the omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid, which is also abbreviated to DHA). Dihydroxyacetone can be made synthetically in a lab or extracted from sugar beets or sugar cane: a fact that is heavily & deceptively marketed as natural or organic in more recent natural tanning lotions & oils.

DHA is a 3-carbon carbohydrate, clear substance that forms a chemical reaction with amino acids on the epidermal keratin layer of the skin surface, resulting in a tanned look.  This process develops over an approximate period of 2-8 hours, staining the surface layer of dead skin.

Various amino acids react differently to DHA, producing different tones of coloration from yellow to brown. The resulting pigments are called melanoidins. These are similar in coloration to melanin, the natural substance in the deeper skin layers which change colour in response to UVA & UVB radiation from the sun.

Federal Drug Agency Caution with Synthetic DHA

 *Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) 1973.

      1,3-Dihydroxyacetone-Use as a topical substance

      Listed with three “risk numbers”: R36, R37 & R38.

      1.      R36 Irritating to eyes.

      2.      R37 Irritating to respiratory system.

      3.     R38 Irritating to skin.

Erythrulose Explained

D-Erythrulose is a carbohydrate, clear to pale-yellowish liquid, which naturally occurs in red berries such as raspberries & is made through aerobic fermentation of the sugar Erythritol, by the bacterium Gluconobacter, followed by extensive multi-step purification in laboratory conditions; resulting in the chemical formula C4H8O4.

Erythrulose acts in the same way as DHA reacting with the amino acids in the proteins of the stratum corneum & epidermis (upper layers of the skin).  It produces a lighter & slower-developing tan than DHA, taking 24 to 48 hours, but lasting longer.  This is not a stain or dye, but rather a chemical reaction that produces a colour change on all treated upper skin layers. It does not involve the underlying skin pigmentation nor does it require exposure to ultraviolet light to initiate the colour change.

Many fake tans can use both DHA & erythrulose to counter balance each other varying effects.  DHA has a more intense colour & less red according to users, whilst erythrulose is longer lasting & better for people who are sensitive to DHA.

Fake Tan Use & Sun Advice

Regardless of the active ingredient used in fake tans, being DHA &/or erthrulose, the standard advise after applying fake tan is to not wash skin for a day, avoid excessive sun exposure in this time & wear sunscreen when outdoors.  Some companies recommend the use of an antioxidant cream to protect the skin from free radical production caused by the fake tan. What? Yes, free radical damage to the skin has been found to be a side effect of DHA & erythrulose with sun exposure. (refer to: What The Scientists are Saying about DHA & Erythrulose).

Organic Fake Tans

Consumer demand for more natural fake tans have driven a new market place in fake tanning products, which can have a variety of lovely ingredients like coconut oil & essential oils in combination with the active DHA & or erythrulose.

The premise on which the organic or naturally marketed tanning products stand with DHA, is this: DHA is naturally derived from sugarcane or beetroot & erythrolose from raspberries; therefore they are safe & natural!!  This enables manufacturers to claim these ingredients as a simple carbohydrate sugar, & accordingly be able to market their products as natural &/or organic.  The process of extraction (from a natural food source such as beetroot) & conversion to dihydroxyacetone for example, is not natural, nor indeed can it be organic.  Any chemical compound that ends in ACETONE is clearly no longer a food source that can be deemed safe to consume as far as we are concerned.

Spray on Fake Tans

These tanning sprays cause a further risk due to air born particles that are ingested by the user.  Read what the medical experts are concluding about this practice, below.

The Inconvenient Scientific on DHA & Erythrulose

1. Dr Lynn Goldman, Dean of the School of Public Health and Health Services at George Washington University, said: ‘The substance (DHA) seems to have a potential for what they call creating mutations, or changing DNA in living cells, which is a serious problem and needs to be further investigated, yet hasn’t been.’

2. Dr Darrell Rigel, a professor of Dermatology at New York University was chosen to partake as a member of a panel of medical experts commissioned by the ABC News network in the United States, to review 10 recent scientific studies on DHA. After the panel of 6 doctors & scientists finalised their findings, Dr Rigel reversed his recommendation on the use of DHA. He formerly told his patients that spray-on tans were perfectly safe, a view he no longer espouses. Rigel said he use to tell his patients what every other dermatologist tells them: If you want to be tanned, (tanning with DHA) is effective. It’s not being absorbed & there’s no long-term problems.  After reading these papers, I’m not sure that’s true anymore.

3. Dr Rey Panettieri, a toxicologist & lung specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, also urged caution, saying: The lungs have a huge surface area & these compounds could get into the bloodstream & promote the development of cancers. Regular inhalation could potentially lead to cancer or the worsening of asthma or other lung disease.’

4. A preliminary pilot study on the potential inhibition of Vitamin D with topical application dihydroxyacetone (DHA). The scientists studied the effect of sunless tanning spray with 9% concentration of Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) on 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] serum levels in subjects exposed to controlled amounts of UV-B radiation during April/May in Omaha, NE, 41°N latitude.  The outcome found that DHA-induced melanoidins in skin act as a topical sunscreen attenuating the formation of 25(OH) D.  (Laura A. G. Armas, Ramon M. Fusaro, Robert M. Sayre, Christopher J. Huerter & Robert P. Heaney. Do Melanoidins Induced by Topical 9% Dihydroxyacetone Sunless Tanning Spray Inhibit Vitamin D Production? Photochemistry and Photobiology Vol 85, Issue 5, 12651266, September/October 2009). This work was presented at the 34th Meeting of the American Society for Photobiology, June 2008, Burlingame, CA (by R.M.F.).

5. The colour alteration produced by Erythrulose/DHA on the skins surface has an SPF 3. (Faurschou, A.; Wulf, H.C. (2004). “Durability of the sun protection factor provided by dihydroxyacetone”. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology and Photomedicine 20 (5): 239–42) (Petersen, Anita B; Na, Renhua; Wulf, Hans Christian (2003). “Sunless skin tanning with dihydroxyacetone delays broad-spectrum ultraviolet photocarcinogenesis in hairless mice”. Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis 542 (1–2): 129–38).

6. DHA has been shown to change the genes of different kinds of cells & organisms, to cause DNA damage. When inhaled, the experts say, DHA can enter the lungs & find its way to the bloodstream, where it has the potential to stir up health problems, including cancer. The experts say more study on DHA is warranted to determine the effect it could have on humans, including birth defects if the user was pregnant when she inhaled the compound. The panel of experts also expressed concern for the workers who apply the mist treatments – up to 15 or 20 a day.  Are ‘Spray-On’ Tans Safe? Experts Raise Questions as Industry Puts Out Warnings.  NEW YORK, June 12, 2012

7. In a 2007 study conducted by Katinka Jung of the Gematria Test Lab in Berlin, showed free radical injury to skin treated with DHA &/or erythrulose, when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, for a period of 24 hours after application, compared to untreated skin.

8. Forty minutes after the researchers treated skin samples with high levels of erythrulose they found that more than 140 percent additional free radicals formed during sun exposure compared with untreated skin. (K Jung, M Seifert, T Herrling, J Fuchs “UV-generated free radicals (FR) in skin: Their prevention by sunscreens and their induction by self-tanning agents.” Spectrochim Acta A Mol Biomol Spectrosc. 2008 May;69(5):1423-8).

9. During UV irradiation exposure to DHA/Erythrulose free radicals, mainly superoxide/hydroperoxyl & other reactive species (ROS/RNS) are produced., that can react with the ketoamines (Amadori products) & other intermediates of the Maillard reaction. This leads to autoxidation radical chain reactions of the ketoamines, which cause a dramatic increase in the radical injury of the skin. (Petersen, Anita B; Wulf, Hans Christian; Gniadecki, Robert; Gajkowska, Barbara (2004). “Dihydroxyacetone, the active browning ingredient in sunless tanning lotions, induces DNA damage, cell-cycle block and apoptosis in cultured HaCaT keratinocytes”. Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis 560 (2): 173–86). The ketoamines were shown to cause DNA strand breaks and to act as mutagens. (Pischetsrieder, Monika; Seidel, Wolfgang; Münch, Gerald; Schinzel, Reinhard (1999). “N2-(1-Carboxyethyl)deoxyguanosine, a Nonenzymatic Glycation Adduct of DNA, Induces Single-Strand Breaks and Increases Mutation Frequencies”. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 264 (2): 544–9).


The science is showing there is a phototoxic response to the substances DHA & Erythrulose which speeds up free radical injury to the skin; causing accelerated aging & damage. The artificial browning effect to the skin with these active ingredients causes a sun blocking effect to UV-B radiation, which is necessary to human health. DHA in particular is an irritant & can cause people to have allergic reactions to it.  It is not regulated for internal use, which is a massive problem when the substance is being breathed in via airborne particulates (with spray tan applications).  The long term effects of accumulation of multiple chemicals is unknown. In addition to this worrying fact, the recommendations advising the use of sunscreens & avoidance of sun, with fake tan use; exacerbates the level of toxic chemical exposure; whilst reducing the health benefits of the sun, naturally.

Regular use of DHA/Erythrulose & Chemical Based Fake Tans

According to the recent scientific data, DHA acts like a sunscreen in its alteration of the epidermal layer of the skin, creating melanoidins, which act like sunscreen, inhibiting the potentiation of 25 (OH) D (produced under the skins surface on contact with UVB radiation from the sun). Regular use of chemical fake tans will therefore decrease the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D due to the unnatural pigment changes on the skins surface.

As the turnover time of keratin is approximately 2 weeks, the blocking of UV-B lasts accordingly. As the dead skin layers sloth off the skin can again absorb more effectively vitamin D. Regular use is akin to continuously applying a partial sun block, with potential & accumulative health results that no one is addressing. Add to this equation the advice by many health professionals, to wear sunscreen in conjunction with fake tan application, and we are seeing the chemical accumulative effects sky rocket.

The Flow on Effect to our Children & Children’s Children

Elizabeth Salter-Green, co-director of Chem trust warns: even if adults aren’t harmed by the chemicals in fake tan, we do know they are far more toxic to a foetus & could cause damage that might not show up until years later. If I were pregnant I’d be very reluctant to use them

Chem Trust is a UK charity that is in service to Protecting Humans & Wildlife from Harmful Chemicals (company motto). Elizabeth Salter-Green has an inspiring biography, working for WWF-UK, WWF European Policy Office, Brussels and WWF International, Switzerland for over 10 years.  She was Director of the WWF-UK Toxics Programme.  She holds degrees in Clinical Physiology and International Environmental Law and speaks French and Spanish.  Prior to WWF she worked for several years as a marine biologist.  She is author of the book: The Toxic Consumer.

Fake tan formulas vary widely, with the cheaper brands usually being highly synthetic with a long list of chemicals, too long to describe in detail.  The accumulative exposure to chemicals prior to falling pregnant impact adult health as chemicals compete with minerals/vitamins & depleting them & some chemicals are endocrine disruptors, mimicking oestrogen causing hormonal imbalances, effecting fertility.  Chemicals that are not eliminated are stored in predominately fat cells in the body, including some that cross the blood brain barrier & store in the brain.  When pregnant, the rapidly developing foetus uses cellular energy from the mother & chemicals can be passed on to the baby via the umbilical cord.  It is not just about the stopping of fake tan whilst being pregnant.

The Business of Fake Tanning

The revolving door of big business & regulatory bodies that govern the legislation that support & protect corporate concerns is common place. A world that is run by large corporations making billions of dollars need to have the consent of government. When product safety is overlooked because profits drive the economy, public health issues are also negotiable.

In regards to the current scientific concerning fake tans & their ingredients, Dr Chris Flower, a toxicologist & Director-General of Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association UK (CTPA), stated in relation to safety assessment: The assessment looks to ensure you would still be safe even if you used the product 100 times more frequently than normal. This 100-fold safety margin is actually much greater than for drinking water!

I don’t know about you, but I would not want to replace water with fake tans! I’d rather go on the side of logic & what has been our life source since the beginning of time on this planet & all that grows from its raze of light.

A Genuine Alternative

As a clinical naturopath I see, on a daily basis, how people’s diets & lifestyle choices determine their state of health. The typical acid & pro-inflammatory diet & lifestyle is coupled with the topical application & absorption of chemicals in cosmetics, used on a daily basis. Items such as: soap, shampoos, antiperspirants, containing aluminum & artificial fragrance, body lotions, toothpaste containing toxic fluoride & possibly toxic aspartame, body crèmes, face, hair products, make-up, sunscreens & now fake tans are a household product. Further add to this equation the fact that it is normal to use pain killers for general aches & pains & take antibiotics when sick. Over time the body wants to eliminate the toxic build up, but every attempt to do so is suppressed with chemical quick fixes & the vicious cycle continues.

As a mother of two beautiful girls I felt I needed to do more to help turn this nightmare around. It starts with education & that is why our website is information based, to provide a truthful alternative to the mainstream rhetoric that is biased & heavily weighted on the side of big business.

I needed to be able to reach a wider audience & to directly face the cosmetic chemical side of the picture, with a truly natural alternative. The main motivation behind the creation of Skin Kiss SUN & TANNED is to provide a truly beautiful oil & crème that is full of the oil, essences, minerals & herbs from nature. To educate the public to the dangers of chemical based fake tans & get the truth out there, that the sun is vital for long term health & wellbeing. We love the sun & all the health benefits it provides us. We are sincerely disturbed by the trends to replace nature with chemicals & real with fake.

SUN & TANNED are multi-purpose skin foods designed mindfully to benefit your skin by nourishing, hydrating, rejuvenating, healing & providing natural pigments from carotenoid oils & herbs which provide shelter & enhance a gorgeous glowing tan with sun exposure.  Skin Kiss is not just another brand selling another product, our business is dedicated to a change in consciousness & a return to nature, as

 Nature Knows Best

Humans & the Natural World share a divine contract written in Universal Law

which NO Pharmaceutical scientist can replicate & no dollar bill can change