The Science Behind Airbrush Tanning
It is a common misconception that spray tanning involves "painting" the skin with color. Most people are interested to learn that spray tanning is actually the result of a chemical reaction.
To give a clearer explanation, it's important to understand the layers of the skin. There are two main layers: the epidermis, which is the layer we see, and the dermis, which sits below the epidermis. Within the epidermis there are five separate layers, and within the dermis, there are two separate layers. For our purposes, we only have to focus on the epidermis.
Again, the epidermis has five layers. Moving from the inside - out, the stratum basale is the deepest layer. The stratum spinosum is located on top of the stratum basale where it helps to bond other cells together. The middle layer, called the stratum granulosum, aids in waterproofing the skin. Next is the stratum lucidum, which is only found on the palms of hands and the soles of feet to provide extra thickness and protection. Lastly, the outermost layer is the stratum corneum. This is the layer we can see on our body and is composed almost entirely of dead cells. This is also the layer involved in airbrush/spray tanning.
When DHA (the ingredient found in all sunless tanners and solutions) is applied to the skin, specifically the stratum corneum, it reacts with the amino acids in that layer. This reaction causes a "bronzing" of the skin. Because the body makes room for new cells about every four weeks, the top layer of skin cells shed and slough off naturally. This is why airbrush tans are temporary and why proper aftercare is important to the longevity and evenness of your airbrush tan.
Occasionally, hormones can affect the amino acids in your skin, which can then affect the development of your airbrush tan. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, monthly cycles, and even certain prescriptions can alter the effectiveness of a sunless tan.
For more information on airbrush tanning prep instructions, maintenance care, and more, please read my previous blog posts.