The Breaking of a Sunless Spray Tan

A really great Customer Question arrived on email from one of our clients. She is wondering why she can no longer get color from her Sunless Tanner. She suspects its because she stopped using tanning beds, has low Vitamin D levels, or has had hormonal changes.  I offered a few suggestions below, and thought some others might also be interested.

Please let me know if anyone else has a solution, I can offer to this client as well. Just send over an email to :


Hello, I am hoping to get any feedback possible from your experience.

I have been a long time spray tanner and tanning bed user for years. Always great color results. And suddenly it all changed for me, and skin changes were one of many symptoms. I had stopped abruptly tanning in beds, choosing to now only spray tan.  In a few months I began having spray solution DHA development problems on my skin. Like color just doesn’t respond. After all my searches to find cause, I narrowed it down to a possible hormonal imbalance. I wonder if the cut off of vitamin D from stopping tanning beds, may have triggered an internal change. Do you have any input about clients skin having issues with spray solutions and hormonal effects, and how to return to normal and how long it takes?

Thank you JA


Hello!  I am a product Specialist with Tampa Bay Tan. I have  a few thoughts you may want to consider.

Vitamin D has nothing directly to do with Spray Tan development in itself. Though overall skin and body health can certainly be affected by Vit D levels in your system. Sometimes things are affected in varied and unexpected ways. So it is possible hormonal function could be effected , if you Vitamin D levels drop to low.

Your body does make vitamin D from daily incidental sun exposure. Even a 10-15 minute walk outside, to and from your car, mailbox etc wearing sunscreen – allows one to produce a lot of vitamin D. Normally enough to maintain good skin and body health.  Your body can produce 10,000 to 25,000 IU of vitamin D in just a little under 10-15 minutes of UV exposure, for those who are fair skinned.

Your body stores vitamin D for a time, until it is depleted, so daily exposure is not necessary. But regular UV exposure can be beneficial using protected or controlled exposures to prevent other negative issues from UV radiation. Further, some recent studies have indicated sunscreen use, even when used at optimal levels, does not appear to severely prevent Vitamin D formation.  So a tanning bed in not required for adequate Vitamin D.

Of course skin type, body weight, amount of body surface exposure to the sun, exposure amounts, geographic location, genetic predisposition, age, overall health all will impact the amount of Vit D one produces. And this can change with time.

Diet is one source of Vitamin D,  and Vit D is fortified in many food products. (orange juice, milk, yogurt, cereals)  Dairy products (egg yolks and swiss cheese) oily fish (mackerel, tuna, salmon), beef liver, cod liver oil, mushrooms all contain Vitamin D.

Its also super easy, and cheap to supplement with daily. Its readily available at any drugstore,  health food store, and also found cheaply on Amazon,, and many other online retailers. This is a common recommendation by many medical care providers, and something you may want to consider.

It is a part of all multivitamins tablets, but can also easily be supplemented alone in small single Vitamins or Chews. (it’s very small in size).  I have also seen liquid supplements if that’s easier, they can be added to smoothies, shakes etc.

600 IU in a daily D3 supplement will provide more then enough Vitamin D for most people. I personally recommend an oil based capsule/gel cap paired with a vitamin K2 supplement for the overall best absorption. You can find these combined in one product, or take two separate supplements once a day. Vitamin D absorbs best with some fats, and is more efficient when combined with Vitamin K2. So an oil based gelcap covers this.

Speak to your Doctor, or Dermatologist for their recommendation based on your needs, and health concerns.

Do I need to use a Tanning bed to get enough Vitamin D?

It is a myth, that one must use tanning beds to have adequate Vitamin D levels.  (see below)

For the science, see link below. (can be complicated to read, if you don’t understand how Scientific articles are laid out.)

I personally have not used tanning beds in over 30 years, nor actively UV tanned. I always wear sunscreen, and have decent Vitamin D levels.  (I have had this checked in an annual Doctors visit)  I am very fair (skintype 2) age 55, entered menopause about 5 years ago (which DOES effect hormonal balance overall, and impacts many areas of the mind and body), and within just the last year I have increased my Vitamin D levels with additional over the counter Vitamin D gel caps.  I take a larger dose then minimum suggested ranges. Daily I take 5000 IU, along with a K2 oil based gel cap. (ability to produce Vit D declines with age, and after menopause, and directly impacts bone health –  so I have added this supplement daily)

My sunless tan development, wear etc did not change in any way before or after adding in the Vitamin D. So I would not suspect that is the issue in your case, at least not directly. Other then possibly overall skin or body health.

Any hormonal change in the body (menopause, menstruation, pregnancy, breast feeding, other life style changes that alter hormonal fiction) will impact the entire body, and the skin IS often effected. Some people are effected more then others. but this can be a cause of sunless tanning developmental changes.

So I would suspect your skin is going through sometype of changes that may have effected your sunless tan results.

Changes as part of the normal aging process, part of changes related to tanning bed reduction, or other diet or health changes. Or possibly, as you suspect, as part of hormonal changes.

Medications can also change how skin acts, especially those that effect hormonal processes (Birth control pills, inserts, or  implants for example).

Stress is also a factor that can change skin health and function.

Time of year, environment, and humidity will also alter how a sunless tan develops. See this link.

Tanning Beds and Sunless Tanning:

There is no sunless tanner “made” to fix the issues you asked about, because the issue is your skins individual reaction,  and how its inner chemistry, and protein makeup are reacting the DHA. DHA is the active ingredient in all sunless tanners, which creates the browning effect. If your skin is not as sensitive to DHA, as it was, it will not tan as dark as expected, using the product you have used before.

Its also possible you are now simply less reactive to DHA, for some reason.  You may always have been, but did not notice this, because of the addition of tanning bed use. Or it may be a new development.

While using tanning beds, your skin was likely more dehydrated and porous, due to tanning bed use. This is very common with Tanning Bed users (even when you use moisturizers) the UV damages  and dries out the deeper skin tissues, which can make the skin more porous. Skin is often unable to hold moisture for long.  As a result, the skin absorbs sunless solution more heavily, and deeper, because it is dehydrated. This can make the tan darker. In your case it made a deeper, and better developed tan.

Many UV salons recommend pairing sunless tanning and UV tanning together  for this reason, because the final tan is darker, and fades slower.

The  pigment increase from Tanning bed use, does darken and deepen the sunless tan appearance, making it look richer, deeper, darker and last longer.  Because your tan is now made up of two parts – the UV Based Brown Pigment increase in your skin, and the sheer sunless brown layer over the top.

Now that you are no longer using tanning beds, or possibly because of a hormonal change, that you noted; the skins moisture level, has also likely changed, and your sunless tan seems not to develop – or is lighter. The moisture level in the skin, does effect tan development as well.

This is all basically a form of DHA RESISTIVITY (this is my normal skin state, I have always personally been DHA resistive)  – Some people find they need more DHA (a higher percentage) then normally recommended for their skin type to develop a medium level tan. 

Some people are this way naturally, do to their body’s natural chemistry or  genetic makeup.

Some develop this, in relation to health, diet changes, or hormonal or other changes.  Its simply an individual variant, of the expected norm.

For others it is just a normal body change that may come with aging, diet or health changes etc.  They may not have always been this way, but with time it occurs. Its not caused by sunless tanning.

Its not a defect, or a thing that can be “fixed” specifically.  But usually can be addressed with adjustments in tanning products used, as well as other life style changes if they are part of the cause.

What can I do to get my tan on now?

Are you a Year Round Sunless user?

Sometimes those who sunless tan year round, may think they no longer tan as dark, because they are so used to seeing themselves “tanned” normally, that they get used to this “new” skin color.  And they eye/perception is fooled, they no longer “see” how dark they truly are. (they lose awareness of how pale they are untanned)

Tan Lines help here so you have some pale untanned skin to compare to.  Wear a tight dark under garment, or add a paper sticker to the skin to create a tan line of pale skin, when applying solution. Or exfoliate off all the sunless tan, (it will take time and multiple exfoliation sessions over about 2 weeks) and try being tan free for 3-4 weeks, allowing skin to get to its normal untanned “pale” state, so you can start a fresh, and truly “see” if you are getting  tanned.  I like to take a Sunless break every 8 weeks or so for this reason.  It allows me to exfoliate off all buildup, Rock Pale for awhile, and come back with a fresh start.


If you have changed to a severe calorie restrictive diet, low carb, carb free, Gluten free, vegan or vegetarian diet, I would recommend you try to make sure you are receiving enough protein and healthy fats, to help keep skin functioning at it best health. Skin needs good adequate protein levels and healthy fats to provide the chemical reactions needed for a great sunless tan, because the Amino Acids (protein bits) in the skin, react with the DHA in your self-tanner to brown the skin.  Collagen powder supplements,or protein powder Shakes are one means to supply daily protein needs, if you diet falls short.

Try to  keep skin as healthy as possible to allow it to work best.  Make sure you minimize things that lessen tan absorption. Improve what you can in the skin care products used (cleansers, moisturizers, shower temperature adjustments etc), dietary  improvements, vitamin supplementation, adequate hydration levels are all things you can manipulate.

Change DHA level, Apply More, Leave on Longer:

Try  switching to a higher DHA level product, applying more coats of solution, and/or leaving the product on longer, in many cases will allow you to obtain a sunless tan.  The Rapid Tan product may be a good option, as you can adjust your shower off time to create the darkness level you need. Or using your preferred product blend, try bumping up the DHA level to a higher one, from the one you used in the past. (Go from an 8 to a 10 or 12 for example)

Or apply more coats, I apply by hand, and if I am pale and have not tanned in a while, I find I need about twice the amount of product on my first new tanning session (4 oz as opposed to 2), and I need to apply product regularly for about 2-3 weeks, to allow product to fully saturate all dead surface skin layers, to give the deepest richest color. (pairing this with good skin care, good exfoliate weekly etc)

Leave tanning product on the skin longer. If you shower at 8 hours, leave on overnight.

See if any of the above helps.

Will I be as dark as when I used a tanning bed?

Your sunless tan may not be as dark as in the past.  A sunless tan is a SHEER translucent wash of color. If you are very pale under the Sunless tan (as you are no longer using a tanning bed) the tan WILL look lighter and paler, and seem to fade faster, because the added UV developed pigmentation layer is no longer visible. So now you ONLY see the Sunless tan over your now pale skin. This will look different then a sunless tan over UV tanned skin.  (Example: a  sheer nude or brown pair of tights or pantyhose look lighter over pale untanned skin, then they do over Darker pigmented, UV tanned skin  – the pantyhose have not changed, but the skin color or darkness underneath DID change)

Make sure skin is well exfoliated before tanning with no product residue on the skin.  Make sure solution is fresh etc.

See the links below for some tips that may help:

No Color Development with Sunless Tanning

Exfoliation Tips

Products to avoid

Do I have to moisturize?

Is coconut Oil best for Moisturizing?


I am not sure of your skin type, product you now use or application habits – so I tried to cover much general information. Hopefully something here will apply to you. Please let me know if you have more questions – Thanks TBT


Post Script: After sending JA above, she replied that based on internet research she believes that she does have issue related to a hormonal disruption (based on other symptoms) and she has been working with a health care Adviser, which has place her on some vitamin and Mineral supplements to increase her Vitamin D levels, and other minerals.  This has only been started recently, so she is hoping with time, she may be able to turn this situation around.  We wish her the best!  I have asked her to touch back with me, if this has helped.


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