Sunless Tanning FAQ

We've tried to anticipate any questions you may have about our sunless tanning service, however if you need additional information please feel free to contact me on 970 531 1576, or email me at


1. How do self tanners work? 

A: The principle tanning agent used in all self-tanning formulas is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). This ingredient does not produce a "real tan" by increasing the skin's melanin levels, rather it creates a tanned appearance by developing a brown color on the surface of the skin.

The action of DHA is limited to the upper layer of the skin and involves a reaction between DHA, skin proteins and oxygen that produces brown compounds. This process is similar to what occurs when you slice open an apple and the surface of the apple browns when it's exposed to the oxygen in the air. 

The development of color takes anywhere from 2 to 4 hours and the intensity of color is dependent upon the DHA concentration in the product, as well as each person's individual skin characteristics. The color developed by DHA usually lasts 5 to 7 days and begins to fade as the top layer of the skin naturally exfoliates.


2. How many days will a sunless tan last? 

A: The longevity of a sunless tan depends on the type of self tanning application, the skin's natural exfoliation process, and on the skincare regimen followed before and after application.

On average, self tanners last 5 to 7 days. A professional application, i.e. a sunless tan received at a salon or spa, will last longer than an at-home application as there is usually a greater percentage of DHA used.

  • At-home application (lotions, sprays, mousse etc.) = 3 to 5 days
  • Professional application (stand-up spray units, airbrush, custom bronzing) = 5 to 7 days

The "life span" of a sunless tan also depends on your skin's natural exfoliation. The faster your skin turns over, the faster the sunless tan will fade. The tan created by the DHA affects only the top layer of the skin and will begin to fade after 5 days as the skin naturally begins to exfoliate.

Following a good skin care regimen before and after sunless tanning will help a sunless tan last longer. Exfoliating prior to a sunless tanning application and keeping skin moisturized afterwards are essential. Sunless tan-extending products containing a light self-tanning bronzer, like Norvell® Pro-long™ Tan Extending Lotion, help hydrate skin and maintain even, natural-looking color for longer.


3. How long should I wait after self tanning before I shower? 

A: DHA solutions take about 16 hours to fully develop. You will receive the best results if you can avoid bathing until the day following your sunless tan. If you must bathe, you should wait a minimum of 6 hours after the application.

If showering prior to the 16-hour post application recommendation, a simple rinse with water only is best. Soap destroys DHA. Delayed bathing allows the DHA bronzer sufficient time to complete its reaction with the amino acids (proteins) within the skin.

NOTE: It's important to understand the difference between instant / cosmetic bronzers. The cosmetic bronzer is the color that is immediately visible during the tanning session which will wash off during the first shower, revealing the DHA bronze tan beneath. After that first shower, do not think that your tan is washing down the drain!


4. Why is keeping skin moisturized essential to maintain great sunless tanning results? 

A: It is important to keep skin moisturized after sunless tanning as dry, flaky skin will slough off faster and color will fade sooner. You basically want to slow down your body's natural exfoliation process.

Sunless tan-extending products with a light self-tanning bronzer, like Norvell® Amber Sun™ Pro-Long™, help hydrate skin and maintain even, natural-looking color for longer by providing subtle bronzers.


5. Will the color from a spray tanning application come off on my clothes? 

A: If you are using a spray solution with a cosmetic bronzer, some of the bronze color may rub off on clothing or bed sheets. This is most likely to happen when you get dressed immediately after tanning.

To minimize the chance of the tint transferring to clothing, we recommend that you wear loose-fitting, darker clothes after your spray session. Try to refrain from physical exertion that could result in you sweating until you shower and wash off the cosmetic bronzer.  

The cosmetic tint is water-soluble. Therefore, in most cases, the color will come out of clothing in the wash.

6. What is Norvell® Sunless Tanning Solution? 

A. Norvell® Sunless Tanning Solution is a formulated solution that, when sprayed on skin, can give the tanner a "just-off-the-beach" look.

Norvell® offers sunless solutions that can be used in an airbrush, HVLP tanning unit or a sunless spray booth.


7. What type of bronzers are used in Norvell® Sunless Tanning Solution? 

A. Three different types of bronzers are used in Norvell® Sunless Solutions. First, there is the instantly visible cosmetic bronzer. Cosmetic bronzer gives the "just-off-the-beach" look, but will wash off after the first shower. (For best results, cosmetic bronzers should remain on the skin for a minimum of 6 hours, but ideally 16 hours). Norvell® clear formulations do NOT contain cosmetic bronzers.

Bronzer type two is DHA. The DHA bronzer initially has no visible effect, but begins to react with the skin in 2 to 4 hours and eventually replaces the cosmetic bronzer, which washes away with bathing.

Finally, Eyrthulose is used as a slow-reacting bronzer, very similar to DHA. Eyrthulose enhances the clients color and extends the life of the spray tan.


8. What is DHA (Dihydroxyacetone)? 

A. DHA is an acronym for Dihydroxyacetone.

DHA is an ingredient derived from sugar cane and beets which reacts with the amino acids in the skin to create the darkening reaction or tan.

Read The DHA Story for more information about DHA and how it is used in sunless tanning products.


9. What about the after-odor often associated with sunless tanning? 

A. Norvell® uses the newest technology in odor inhibitors to encapsulate the odor causing agents commonly associated with DHA products.

We then blend the fragrance with DHA in such a way as to allow the pleasant fragrance of raspberry and almonds to come through, eliminating the dreaded "sunless smell".


10. What is a cosmetic bronzer? 

A. The component of a sunless product that gives a a tanner immediate color for that "just-off-the-beach" look.

Ingredients used in sunless cosmetic bronzers are similar to those used in cosmetic foundations or bronzing powders.


11. When should I exfoliate? 

A. You should exfoliate before every sunless session. Using a mild exfoliant, such as Amber Sun™ Body Scrub, exfoliation should be done one day prior to the session.

You should allow at least 8 hours between body scrub use and the sunless session.

For people with extremely dry skin, or problem areas, we recommend using Sea Coral Salt Scrub. If using salt scrub, this must be done 24 to 48 hours prior to the sunless tanning session, otherwise the oils within the salt scrub will affect the sunless tan results.


12. Will the solution stain my hair? 

A. No. Most people will not see any affect on the color of their hair. Customers with light blonde, gray or platinum hair may see some discoloration from the cosmetic bronzers initially, however, this color will wash out with the first shower after the tanning session. If you prefer you can wear a hair cap, but it is not necessary. 


13. How can I prevent patchy or uneven wear-off? 

A. Daily application of Norvell® Pro-Long™ color extending moisturizer will extend the look of the tan. This bronzing booster will also reduce the appearance of uneven wear and patchiness.

Pro-Long™ is a nutrient rich moisturizer that contains low levels of DHA bronzer to extend the look of any sunless tan. This exclusive formula not only extends the tan, it also incorporates the latest skin care with skin-firming technology, delivering "dynamic copper" to the skin.


14. Should I allow the skin to rest between spray tanning sessions? 

A. We recommend that after every 5 weeks of constant spray tanning, you allow your skin to rest for 10 days. This allows your skin to completely lose its sunless tan, which eliminates patchiness or uneven areas of wear. These areas are caused by normal contact with clothing and other surfaces which cause additional exfoliation.


15. Will I turn "orange"? 

A. No. We have perfectly blended our cosmetic bronzer to give you that "just-off- the-beach" look, and transition smoothly into the DHA color that will later develop.

All Norvell® solutions are designed to create a custom color shade between the DHA / Erythulose combination and your natural skin tone.

The "orange" color, as it is sometime called, is the result of high pH levels within the skin. Customers with an extremely light complexion, or those tanning for the first time, should be sprayed with Norvell® xLaTan™ pH Balancing Prep Spray to balance the skin's pH levels prior to application.


16. Will I have tanned hands and feet? 

A. We never apply as much product to thin-skinned areas like the hands, feet, wrists and ankles. Moreover, we spray these areas with a very light misting only. 


17. How long after tanning should I wait to enjoy a pool / spa / ocean? 

A. We recommend avoiding these situations for the first 48 hours following your spray tan. Chlorinated pools and spas can increase the rate at which the skin exfoliates, causing the tan to wear and fade more quickly.


18. Can pregnant women be safely sprayed? 

A. As you would before using any product while pregnant, we recommend that you consult your personal physician before sunless tanning. However, Norvell® solution is a non-toxic, food grade product that is not known to have any detrimental effects on an expectant mother.


19. Is a DHA spray tan safe for a diabetic person? 

A. We have received no feedback from any medical authority that would indicate a risk to a diabetic person, however, as you would before using any product on a diabetic person, we recommend each customer consult their physician before receiving a DHA spray tan application.


20. I have Vitiligo, will the solution cause a change in the affected areas? 

A. Yes. Norvell® sunless solution does work on the affected areas, however, it is important to remember the skin that is lighter tans, and the unaffected skin areas also tan, therefore they will remain different colors. While both areas do achieve a sunless tan, they will appear "two toned" when finished. Norvell® color is a blend of the natural skin color and the sunless color.

Sunless color is not a "cover-up", but rather a blend. Customers looking to darken only the lighter skin will need to take care and apply solution to these areas only, and may be best served with any of the retail self-tanning applications available from Norvell.


21. I have very sensitive skin, should I be conerned with a possible reaction to Norvell® solutions? 

A. If you are concerned over allergies or skin reactions to the solution, we will first do a patch test on a small area of the skin prior to a full body session.


22. Will sunless solution cause additional freckling to already freckled skin? 

A. No. However, the spray does not cover freckles up either. What is darker will stay darker, and what is lighter will stay lighter.


23. How long does a spray tan take to dry? 

A. Norvell® Solution is dry enough to get dressed in 8 minutes, however we reduce this time by removing our spray gun from the air hose and "blow drying" the skin, meaning customers can get dressed immediately afterwards.


24. Will I be sticky after being sprayed? 

A. It is normal for there to be a slight sticky feel immediately following the session. Norvell solutions is formulated to be the fastest-drying formula available. You should feel completely dry and non-tacky within 8-12 minutes following application.


25. How dark will I appear after one application? 

A. Results will vary based on the individual skin type and pH balance. Norvell® solutions have been formulated to provide a color that is appealing to most people, and we have a variety of shades to allow us to find you the perfect color for your skin tone.


26. Will a sunless tan protect me from UV sun rays? 

A. No. People often get a false sense of security when they've been spray tanned, however it is very important to be aware that your skin will still burn in sunlight. Your skin is not protected and you will still need to apply SPF sunscreen when in the sun. Norvell® solutions do NOT contain any SPF.