DHA was first recognized as a skin coloring agent by German scientists in the 1920s. Through its use in the X-ray process, it was noted as causing the skin surface to turn brown when spilled. World War II began, and further research in this area temporarily halted as scientists contributed their resources to the war effort.
In the 1950s Eva Wittgenstein at the University of Cincinnati did further research with dihydroxyacetone. Her studies involved using DHA as an oral drug for assisting children with glycogen storage disease. The children received large doses of DHA by mouth, and sometimes spat or spilled the substance onto their skin. Health care workers noticed that the skin turned brown after a few hours of DHA exposure.
Eva Wittgenstein continued to experiment with this unique substance, painting DHA liquid solutions onto her own skin. She was able to consistently reproduce the pigmentation effect, a similar look to tanning from UV Rays, thus the "Self-Tanning" industry was born. Sunless tanning progressed over the years.
In the 1960s The first consumer sunless tanning lotion was introduced to the marketplace. This product was called "Quick Tan" or "QT". It was sold as an overnight tanning agent, and other companies followed with similar products. Consumers soon tired of this product due to unattractive results such as orange palms, streaking and poor coloration. Because of the QT experience, many people today still associate sunless tanning with fake-looking orange tans.
In the 1970s the United States Food and Drug administration(FDA) added DHA permanently to their list of approved cosmetic ingredients. By the 1980s new sunless tanning formulations appeared on the market, and refinements in the DHA manufacturing process created products that produced a more natural looking color and better fading. Dozens of brands appeared on drugstore shelves, in numerous formulations.
Today, dihydroxyacetone is the main active ingredient in all sunless tanning skincare preparations. It may be used alone or combined with other tanning components such as erythrulose. DHA is considered the most effective sun-free tanning additive.
The Artificial Tanning Process
The artificial tan takes 2 to 4 hours to begin appearing on the skin surface, and will continue to darken for 24 to 72 hours, depending on formulation type. Once the darkening effect has occurred, the tan will not sweat off or wash away with soap or water. It will fade gradually over 3 to 10 days, in conjunction with the skin's normal exfoliation process. Exfoliation, prolonged water submersion, or heavy sweating can lighten the tan, as these all contribute to rapid dead skin cell exfoliation (the dead skin cells are the tinted portion of the sunless tan.) DHA does not damage the skin, and is considered a safe skin coloring agent and nutritional supplement.
DHA has been approved for cosmetic use by the FDA, the Canadian Health Ministry, and most of the EU member nations.
DHA-based sunless tanning has been recommended by The Skin Cancer Foundation, American Academy of Dermatology Association, Canadian Dermatology Association and the American Medical Association