What is DHA?

Ever wonder how self tanner's work? Why some are darker than others? Is it safe? Why does GlowPro list DHA percentages on their bottles? Here is your mini science lesson to answer all those questions!

The bronzing agent in sunless tanners is called DHA (dihydroxyacetone) and it is a sugar derivative that interacts with amino acids in the skin in a way that results in browning. Unlike the browning from UV rays, this involves only the outermost (already dead) layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, and is not damaging the skin. 

As you would assume, the more DHA is in a product, the more tan you become. But there is a limit. The maximum amount of DHA that the skin can absorb has been studied as anywhere from 11-13%. So why do we make a 14% DHA? Because 13 is a weird number and our owner is kind of 'stitious (thank you to anyone who laughed at my House Bunny joke). Once the maximum is reached, any excess that the pores can not absorb will wash off. Average consumed grade self tanners only contain 4-8% DHA, with some premium products reaching 10% DHA. Higher DHA levels are more common in European and Australian formulas. GlowPro offers the 14% concentration to give you the opportunity to achieve your darkest tan. Also note, with greater power, comes greater responsibility and we recommend this formula for advanced tanners. Our 14% Ultra Bronze Mousse is perfect for zealous tanners who find standard products to be too weak and have been left wanting more color. 

While 10% DHA is GlowPro’s “lighter” formula, it shouldn’t be discounted just because you want a dark tan. 10% DHA is an incredibly versatile solution that works for almost all skin types, the most popular concentration used in airbrush tanning, and still significantly stronger than drug store brands.

GlowPro also contains a secondary bronzing agent, Erythrulose, which is a reactive sugar very similar to DHA except that it develops at slower rate. When blended with DHA it can help the tan color appear richer, deeper and more even. For some users, it also makes the tan fade slower and smoother.


Once self tanner is applied, it takes 6-10 hours for the tan to fully develop. We recommend 8 hours, or a nights sleep, as the comfortable middle ground, but the longer you leave it on the better. Pre and post care play a big part in tan longevity, but you can expect a GlowPro tan to last between 5-7 days. That can also be extended with good moisturizing practices and tan extenders, which contain smaller amount of DHA.

For people who are concerned about the safety of sunless tanners, it’s really a non-issue with GlowPro. The concern surrounding DHA comes from inhaling the material via spray tans at high levels chronically. It could be a concern for a professional who is spraying multiple people a day, similar to the concerns for hairstylists inhaling hair color frequently. There is no evidence to date of any toxicity for DHA at consumer concentrations.