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If you ask most people how self tan products work, they will probably think the products dye the skin, a bit like a spray-paint.

Not so, most of these products (and every one on our site) use dihydroxyacetone as the active ingredient (we will call it DHA). DHA is a colourless sugar, which when applied to the outer surface of the skin causes a change in the skin colour.

Herein lies a bit of a problem, most people do think sunless tanning is a dye that will show up immediately, it does in fact take several hours for the colour to develop, and its your skin that colouring, thats why the finished result looks so natural.

We constantly hear about “how long before the tan washes off” It doesnt, its your skin, if you could wash it off, you might be in a bit of bother.

Having said that, most manufacturers do use ingredients that will produce an instant colour, this is called the “colour guide” but this washes off leaving the finished self tan thats develops over 3 -12 hours depending on the product.

However, the skin sheds all the time and so a sunless tan just like a suntan will fade away quite quickly.

So now you know that your skin is doing all the work, you might better appreciate that sunless tan applied to healthy skin will last longer. You will get a better result by following the three steps to heaven!


Your skin is replacing itself all the time, every 28 days you will have a completely new skin. Your lovely self tan will drop off along with all the millions of dead skin cells, however, if you exfoliate first you can slow this process down a bit. Use whilst bathing or showering, pay particular attention to hands, knees, ankles and feet, the areas where dry flaky patches are more common. As we have said, exfoliating wont bring you a much better result, but it will last longer, and thats real important if you feel good about your new look!


When you have washed off the colour guide, lock your tan in with a good quality moisturiser or tan extender, this nurtures and protects your lovely new tan and helps keep it as long as possible. There you go easy as that, 3 steps to heaven indeed!


Using the gloves provided with your purchase, apply the self tan in small amounts evenly over the entire body, working the lotion in a circular motion, dont use too much, remember what we said about it your skin that changes colour, you dont need a lot to accomplish this. Apply the product to the face and hands using a small sponge, this is best particularly at the hair line. Allow 20 minutes for the product to dry before dressing, and then allow at least 4 hours before washing off the colour guide, its recommended that you sleep in the product, so its best applied at night, dont worry about it coming off, the tan develops gradually and the colour you see at first will wash off in the morning, leaving your beautiful self tan, dont use soap to wash the guide off though, its best to use a wet flannel

Thats it!

Just as an overview:-

Different brands use various amounts of DHA in their preparations, and so the finished result is not exactly the same regardless of the brand, you may find one that produces a much darker colour than another one does, thats fine if this is what you want. If your current brand produces just the colour you are happy with, and you are happy with how long it lasts, its maybe best to stick with it, if you fancy something different or longer lasting, then you have found the right place.

All the products we list have these steps to heaven, you can mix and match no problem, although having said that, each brand set was designed to go together, and that will always be the best combination. If you cant afford to buy all three, don’t worry, the self tan will work without them, it just wont last as long. Some products shown will have ingredients that make the skin colour immediately, remember, these are only colour guides, they will wash off in the morning, leaving you with, hopefully, a perfect self tan.