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Indoor Tanning Lotions

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Indoor tanning lotions work entirely differently than the way suntan lotions or sunscreens work. In fact, they have the opposite effect on the skin. For this reason, it is very important to understand the differences between these products and never use them interchangeably.

Indoor tanning lotions are formulated for indoor use only. They contain no sunscreening agents to minimize the possibility of painful, damaging sunburn. Sunscreen lotions work by either blocking or chemically absorbing the sun’s tanning ultraviolet light rays in an effort to minimize or prevent a suntan or burn. Indoor tanning lotions, instead, are designed to enhance, even amplify, the cosmetic effects of exposure to sunlight without actually getting in the sun.

Suntan lotions are not the same as indoor tanning lotions, either, and using them interchangeably can lead to severe burns. Both products are designed to enhance the tanning process but they work in different ways.

Tanning occurs when the pituitary gland is stimulated by exposure to sunlight to secrete a hormone called alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone. The release of this hormone causes a chemical reaction just underneath the skin which, in turn, releases a substance called melanin. The pigment in melanin darkens the skin, giving it the tanned appearance.

The development of melanin, and its tanning pigment, is the goal of some indoor tanning lotions. In fact, many indoor tanning lotions contain melanin as an ingredient.

Another class of indoor tanning lotions produces no melanin but produce what’s known as the “tingle factor” instead. In indoor tanning lotions where the tingle factor is the source of the tan, chemical irritants in the lotion cause the skin to become flushed and reddened, tingling (and “tanned”) from the irritation and increased flow of blood to the area of application.

A third type of indoor tanning lotions is the bronzer. Bronzers contain dihydroxyacetone, which gives immediate color to the area where the bronzer is applied. These indoor tanning lotions are often used to jump start a more long-term tanning regimen.

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