DHA, dihydroxyacetone, a chemical derived from plant sources such as sugar beets, sugar cane, and sometimes the fermentation of glycerin, is the ingredient used in most sunless tanners on the market.. Yes it is a chemical, but then again so is water. It was discovered by scientists who were experimenting with DHA for medications in the mid 1900's. During these experiments, one smart scientist (a woman) discovered that DHA turns skin brown when applied topically and this led to the very first sunless tanning product, Coppertone's QT tanning lotion. For anybody who used QT back in the day, never fear we've come a LONG way.
DHA reacts with the amino acids in the cells in the outermost layer of skin to produce a brown color. The chemistry is similar to bread turning brown when toasted and apples turning brown when exposed to air. (It's called the Maillard reaction.)
The sunless community is strugglng with whether DHA is organic or not. Some say yes, some say no. It has a lot to do with FDA and semantics. As I understand it, the FDA does not recognize DHA as an organic compound, so we use the term Eco-Cert, which is a European based organic certification.
DHA is not absorbed through the skin into the body and it has no known toxicity. DHA has been listed with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1973, and has been used in cosmetic preparations since.
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