This Monday the Geeks’ molecule of choice is dihydroxyacetone! (Or DHA for ease). Seeing as the names of the molecules never give away the product they’re in, you may be surprised to know DHA is the active ingredient in many self-tanning lotions!

DHA is actually a sugar comprised of only 3 carbons (whereas the sugar we eat, glucose, has 6 carbons!). It interacts with amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, on the surface of our skin surface. This interactions forms a brown-coloured complex, and voila – tan-tastic! The amount of DHA in the product corresponds to how dark the skin will appear, enabling the tanning products to become tailored to the desired skin tone outcome.

In order for the DHA to remain stable and stay on the skin for a couple of days at least, it requires a more acidic pH. Therefore the use of a compound called PFPE phosphate is necessary to reduce the pH, and is also perfectly safe!

Us Geeks have to make sure you all are aware that these tanning lotions (without SPF) don’t provide enough sun protection alone! The use of self-tanners are much safer than a UV-induced tan, however they have been known to induce allergic reactions in some people, so please test before you use!


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