QUESTION: I have heard that Orange, or Yellow and Red synthetic dyes in spray tan solutions are what make people turn orange.  And natural colorants from plants won’t make orange tans, is this true?

ANSWER: No this is not true.

Surprising but true, no spray tanning company uses “orange dyes” in their solutions – but people still turn orange.

Company’s use many colorants to tint the brown bronzer tint in a product, and they can be all synthetic, all natural, or a mixture.

Natural Dyes or colorants can be plant based, mineral based, or insect in origin.

Concentration of the dye compound, percentage of the colorant used, and how it is formulated into the finished product mix, length of time on the skin before the shower, and skin permeability and dryness can effect how much staining to the skin occurs from the dye colorant.

In a spray tan solution, the dye color is added in a very small amount, when based against overall product ingredients percentage. The level is not anywhere close to that used in a concentrated food colorant dye that you use to color your Easter Eggs for example.

A tanning solution by weight is 80-90 percent water. Then all other ingredients are added, and they are shown on the label (for USA based products) in descending order based on percentage used in the finished product. As such, all ingredients below the DHA listing on a product are below the DHA percent level in amount (typically DHA is 8-12% range).  So they are all less than 8% to 12% of the product, depending on the products DHA percentage.

Colorants are usually within the lowest percentage of ingredients in a product makeup. So the amount of colorants in the overall product is low. Often below 1-2%, with 99% of the product being other ingredients. This will temper the amount of staining that will occur on the skin from the dyes. (because of the concentration level)

At this concentration level, any skin staining effect would be temporary,  normally washing off in the first shower, or only lasting 1-3 days on most people. (dry skin, very permeable skin can hold the dye color a bit longer, but usually not over more then a few days. If you are interested in how the skin staining can affect the final tan color in more detail, See THIS LINK for specifics on how the solution tint color, can add a temporary “tone” to a final tan. )

If a colorant is used at 50% of the product makeup, then a much stronger skin staining would occur, and could conceivably last 3-5 days or so – but that is not how colorants are use in Self Tanning products. The amount of color dyes in the finished product is regulated, and only used at specific levels.

DHA is the primary color activity in self tanning product, and it is the primary visible color you see when the tan development has been completed. So your final color will come primarily from the DHA portion, which is the Active colorant agent. Other colorants in a product can add a bit of color to the final tan for a limited time, but they are not the cause of orange tans.

If they were the cause – most clients using the same product would also turn orange. As all would have the same skin staining effect from the dyes. However this is not normally seen in the sunless industry, when a product is correctly used and applied, with the correct DHA range and shower off timing for the clients specific skin-type.


What about Synthetic Dyes being the problem?

It is true that many cosmetics and spray tan companies use skin safe food or cosmetic grade synthetic dyes of Yellow, Red and Blue  for the bronzer tint in their solutions. But this is also not the cause of Orange Tans.

As above, the percentage used, and how it is formulated are still the factor that would most effect the amount of skin staining that occurs. (of any color)

The colorant percentage used in sunless tan solutions, will produce minimal to light or no staining on most people. Especially when a product is applied in correct amounts, and showered off in the recommended time-frame for the product used. (see manufacturers recommenced best use directions)

When company’s formulate a blend, they formulate it to produce a Brown bronzer tint, so the staining (if it occurs) is going to be “Brown” in color, not Orange, Red, or Yellow. The brown color is used with mixes of red, blue and yellow colors (the primary colorants), though other secondary colors of brown, green etc can also be added to adjust or tweak the final tone effect.  This is the same way colorants are used in all skincare products, cosmetics, shampoos, body lotions etc.

The skin does not actively separate out each individual component of the blended dye mixture, and only “grab” that one color Orange, or Red and Yellow, or Blue. Rather is would be the stain from the combo of all the colors used, for the final bronze/brown tint. In other words, any visible stain on the skin will be a brown stain from the brown dye used.


Will only using Natural Dyes create a different effect?

Plant based colorants or “dyes” also come in Red, Blue, Yellow, and even Orange. And if orange tans were caused by using Red, Yellow, or Orange Dyes – it will also happen with the plant based Dyes.  Which are still dyes, that can still stain skin, hair and cloth. The skin does not know that you are using a synthetic vs a natural dye. It just reacts to the dyes color on the skin.

A colorant or dye will still work in the same way on the skin, regardless of the source. If it is added at high enough concentrations to stain the skin, it will still stain it whether it is natural or synthetic.

Red and Blue berry’s can still stain the skin when left on the skin long enough if it is a fruit with a high enough colorant concentration.

Many fabrics and textiles have been colored with natural dyes with long lasting non fading dyes for hundreds of years, with colorants that will stain skin and cloth, and will not fade when used at the correct levels. Before synthetic dyes were used, only plant and insect based dyes were used to color clothing  yarns, paints, skin cosmetics etc. And many rich and very dark colors, covering all color ranges, can be obtained

See the example link below, of Henna Dyes, which are plant based, and CAN certainly dye your skin or hair orange for a period of time. Even though these are all natural dyes/colorants.

(See some examples of orange Henna Colorant used to dye hair copper and orange HERE.)

Natural dyes come in reds, yellow, oranges, blues, browns, etc and a blending of them will create brown. This same Brown color, can also stain skin, depending on percentage concentration.


Is a clear or Dye free product less likely to make me orange.

No, if the DHA level is to high for your skin type, or the product is left on the skin – then orange can still occur, even with a clear product with NO added dyes or colorants, ether synthetic or natural.  See this link for how DHA Level can cause orange tans)

Correctly matching the skintype of the client to the DHA range best suited to their skin, will prevent orange tans in most cases.

Tampa Bay Tan does carry three blends that come in CLEAR formulas, with no added Dyes. (Tanfastic, Tan Extraordinaire, and Revive). You would select the Tint option CLEAR, to purchase the clear version product.

See details on Clear Products, and when you might use them HERE.

Tampa Bay Tan also carry’s a blend that uses only a natural based caramel colors (the candy) for the brown bronzer color. See Tan Extraordinaire HERE

This is a great product for clients that want to avoid any synthetic dyes, but still like a brown tint when the spray tan is applied.


Please send us an email to if you have questions we can help with.