Dihydroxyacetone,or DHA, is a sugar that makes the skin look tanned without the need for sun exposure. The main active ingredient in self-tanning products, it’s usually combined with another sugar, erythrulose. Here’s how it helps you to achieve a natural-looking tan, and which products you’ll find it in.
Dihydroxyacetone for a natural-looking tan.
- What is dihydroxyacetone and how does it work on your skin?
- Which products contain dihydroxyacetone?
- Are there any risks associated with using DHA on the skin?
What is dihydroxyacetone and how does it work on your skin?
Dihydroxyacetoneis a ketotriose, which means it's made up of three carbon atoms with a carbonyl group in the middle of the chain. Used in many self-tanning products, this sugar can be plant-derived or synthetic. Plant-derived DHA is obtained by bioconversion of glycerol from corn, sugar cane, rapeseed, beetroot, palm oil, etc.
When it comes into contact with the skin, DHA triggers a chemical reaction resulting from the glycation of the amino acids in the corneocytes (the cells of the stratum corneum). This reaction produces melanoidins, heterogeneous polymers that cause the skin to become more brown.This pigmentation appears6 to 12 hoursafter you apply the self-tanner. However, this colour gradually fades and disappears completely in5 to 7 days
due to the renewal of the stratum corneum (natural desquamation process).Since it doesn’t affect the melanocytes of the skin, this artificial tan doesn’t protect against UV rays. We therefore recommend still usingsunscreenwhen exposed to the sun.
Which products contain dihydroxyacetone?
In skincare, the maximum concentration of DHA permitted is 10%, but it’s usually used at concentrations between3 and 8%.As mentioned above, it gives you a natural-looking tan by reacting with the amino acids in the stratum corneum. That’s why DHA is the active ingredient in self-tanning products, from lotions to creams, serums, gels, etc.
OurGradual Self-Tanning Serumhas10% DHA blended with Erythrulosefor a natural finish. It also containscarob pulp extractto prolong your tan.This product will start to gradually tan your skin 12 hours after the first application.
Note:DHA is also aningredientinhairdyes. It works in a similar way as it does on skin cells, i.e. via a browning reaction known as the Maillard reaction or glycation. Hair colouring with products high in DHA is usually temporary, but it doesn’t damage the hair fibre, so your hair stays healthy and shiny. It’s worth noting that DHA content in hair dyes mustn’t exceed 6.25%.
Are there any risks associated with using DHA on the skin?
The Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) has stated that DHA in self-tanning products at concentrations up to 10%poses no health risk to consumers. Plus, no scientific studies have proven that DHA penetrates the skin’s protective barrier. It’s safe to use for pregnant women.
However, self-tanning products containing DHA can cause irritation if applied to sensitive areas of the body, so you should avoid contact with mucous membranes.