What Causes that Spray Tan Smell?

Unfortunately, the dreaded “spray tan smell” is inevitable. The odor is a byproduct of the chemical reaction that occurs with your skin cells and Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and is related to your individual body chemistry. DHA is the active ingredient found in ALL sunless tanning products- creams, sprays, lotions, mousses- that gives you a tan! The odor can vary from person to person and product to product, because of differing body chemistries and varying ingredients in products.

Ingredients in some sunless products and how they interact with DHA or a client’s skin can sometimes increase odor. An important note to make is that since spray tan odor is caused by the DHA reaction, the higher the level of DHA in a solution (the stronger/darker the solution) the stronger the odor. Additionally, the high level of DHA combined with ingredients that help create a “Rapid Tan” can cause a stronger odor causing a Rapid Tan smell to be stronger than a Signature, although it is rinsed off sooner. 

So what can we do about “spray tan smell”? 

Try different products!! Again, body chemistry and ingredient additives play a role in the “after” smell. This is why some spray tan solutions may make you smell worse than others! In other words, what makes me smell awful may not smell on you at all and vice versa. On the body chemistry note, I should also mention that hormones, medication, diet, sweat etc. can also affect odor. Some products even have odor neutralizing ingredients or encapsulated technology blended into their product formulas, to help capture DHA development odor on the skin as it’s produced. Pre-tan and post-tan products, like our prep spray and finishing powder, are formulated with proprietary odor neutralizing ingredients to help combat DHA smell. 

Unfortunately, some clients have a distinctive DHA smell no matter what product they use. If you are trying to mask the DHA smell after your tan has developed, be careful not to use fragrance spray directly on the skin as the alcohol in the spray can remove your spray tan color. Also remember, when our scent is “off” we are the first to notice and can smell it often when others cannot. It may make us self conscious to be able to smell the DHA reaction, however others around us may not smell anything “off” at all!



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