Airbrush tanning is the application of self-tanning solution through a spray gun or HVLP (high volume, low pressure) system. The solutions are self-tanning sprays that use various levels of DHA (Dihydroxyacetone) to create the sunless tan. DHA is a colorless sugar, derived from plants such as sugar cane and sugar beets, and it has been FDA approved for cosmetic purposes since the 1970’s. When applied to the skin, DHA reacts with the air (oxygen- oxidation process) and skin proteins to develop color and produce a delayed natural bronzed glow. Color may start to develop within 2-3 hours, but complete results may take up to 24 hours depending on the brand of solution. Depending on the solution, clients may shower within 2-3 hours or wait to shower after 6-8 hours.
Some airbrush solutions contain cosmetic bronzers which will allow for immediate color to appear. This color is not permanent, and will wash off during your first shower. The cosmetic bronzers are helpful during the actual airbrush process; it allows the technician to see the color and act as a guideline as they spray.
DHA reacts with skin proteins, including amino acids, in the outermost layer of skin. The reaction develops brown skin coloring that looks very similar to a natural tan. The tan fades as the dead layers of skin slough off, just as in normal tanning.