≡ Menu

The big lie about tanning lotions


Jessica admits to committing a beauty sin: she tans indoors. She’s been told that in order to maximize your skin’s ability to tan, you should use an indoor tanning lotion. They have ingredients such as Tyrosine that are supposed to make you tan faster/better, as opposed to regular body lotion. She wants to know if the ingredients in indoor tanning lotions make a difference in how you tan.

The Right Brain responds:

Jessica, Jessica, Jessica. We’ll skip the lecture about how bad tanning is for your skin and instead we’ll just jump right in and start bashing tanning accelerators. To put it scientifically, these tyrosine tanners are bulls**t. The companies that sell pills and lotions with tryosine claim that they stimulate the production of melanin, the natural pigment that makes you look tan. Unfortunately, that’s just not true.

How Tyrosine In Your Body Is Good For Your Tan

It is true that tyrosine plays a role in the tanning process. It’s an amino acid that your body forms by breaking down the protein you eat. This amino acid is then broken down by an enyzme called tryosinase that is formed by melanin-producing cells in your skin known as melanocytes. This reaction converts tyrosine into a chemical called DOPA. DOPA reacts further to form Dopaquinone which in turn forms the different types of melanin. (Eumelanin is black-brown and pheomelanin is yellow-red.) This chain reaction is triggered when your skin is exposed to UV light.

How Tyrosine in Tanning Pills and Lotions Is Bad

But taking pills with tyrosine or rubbing a tyrosine lotion on your skin doesn’t really help the process. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, Tanning accelerators, such as those formulated with the amino acid tyrosine or tyrosine derivatives, are ineffective … evidence suggests they don’t work. FDA considers them unapproved new drugs that have not been proven safe and effective. It makes sense if you think about it – swallowing a chemical like tyrosine or rubbing it on your skin doesn’t necessarily make it available to the right metabolic pathways.

So shame on all the companies out there marketing tyrosine-based products! Shame on you Hawaiin Tropic Tan 2 Max. Shame on you Reviva Sun Tan Protection Lotion. And shame on YOU, Bio-tan Sunless Tanner.

The Brains Bottom Line: Don’t waste your money on tyrosine tanning accelerators, they don’t do anything special for your tan.

{ 22 comments… add one }

  • Janelle January 17, 2015, 1:30 pm

    This is seven years old now but thank you! I learnt that process in a Human Diversity Anthropology class and nearly came to blows with the girl at the tanning salon telling me it was nearly necessary in order to improve my tan.

  • Hagi December 19, 2015, 4:01 am

    Try to claim something just prove how stupid you can be.first you coppy entry level wikipedia value for melanon pathway ,than you stupidly contradict yourself that tyrosin will not work if it comes in a form of pill or lotion.without any serious back up.so it does work in fact bringing tyrosin in proximity to the melanocyts in any form acts mucj better than from digested whole protain.sojessica dont listen to those expert in dime.continue to tan and use tyrodine base accelerators and you even be safer than not tanning at all

  • Kristen June 10, 2016, 2:32 pm

    Tanning beds are unsafe however, tyrosine is fantastic. I am pale but do not burn… or tan easily. Tyrosine in lotions doesn’t seem to be super effective (probably because its not a large amount and its being absorbed thro the skin). Pills however are the only way I have ever got a tan.

  • Quentin August 20, 2016, 5:11 pm

    I would just like to say that whomever created this post is absolutely incorrect. I am an assistant manager at a tanning salon and I have been doing an experiment to prove that using a lotion with tyrosine in it, does indeed work.
    I apply a lotion in my left arm and I leave my right arm with nothing on it. After only 2 weeks, there is a significant difference in my skin tones.
    So, do not bash something if you haven’t tried it.
    Our “lotions” are actually referred to as “skin care” now, most of the products that we sell fight all of the signs of aging 100% and our skin care products also significantly the risk of melanoma.
    So again, please do some research before bashin something how you did 🙂

    • Randy Schueller August 20, 2016, 10:03 pm

      We did do research – and so did the FDA who says these products are ineffective, unapproved drugs. So who should we believe – the FDA who’s job is to protect consumers or someone who makes their living from selling tanning products? You decide.

      • Quaylee April 11, 2017, 11:34 am

        oh definitely believe the FDA! they want your money when you purchase the cancer causing SUN SCREEN all over your body everyday!

        for parent out there let me ask you this…
        if your pediatrician recommended that you give your child Tylenol every day multiple times a day even when he or she is not sick would you?
        NO would find a new pediatrician
        same thing goes for this sun screen PENDEMIC!
        they are recommending that we put sunscreen on our children multiple times a day, even if there indoors, even if its winter, or raining outside….
        I DO NOT PUT SUNSCREEN ON MY CHILD UNBLESS THERE IS A CHANCE OF HIM BURNING!!!
        when sunscreen is applied to the body it blocks all rays both UVA and UVB there for not allowing the body to produce VITIMIN D….
        so yah believe the FDA! ….NOT!

        • Randy Schueller April 12, 2017, 6:44 am

          You’re entitled to your beliefs but the scientific consensus is that over exposure to the sun is MUCH more dangerous than using sunscreen.

          • Lucas Waldron October 5, 2017, 11:47 am

            Randy,

            I suggest you consider that one hundred years from now, people will be looking back on our medical science and especially the FDA as ignorant barbarians. Fast forward another 100 years, and the scientists of that age will look back on them as barbarians, so on and so forth.

            The honest truth is that we as a species believe we know more than we truly do. While there is some evidence that all tan producing sun exposure et al causes damage to cellular DNA, our knee-jerk response of saying ‘avoid it at all costs!’ is similar to the 5o’s era logic of:

            “all intense exercise causes tearing of the muscle tissue in the heart leading to aging and hardening of the tissue; don’t exercise more than you have to”

            It’s ignoring the greater picture. Periods of intense radiation exposure are inevitable, just as with periods of intense cardiovascular stress. The point of getting regular mild exposure is to create a healthier system better capable of resisting catastrophic damage during unavoidable intense exposure.

            There is that which you know, that which you don’t yet know, and the unfathomable vastness of everything you don’t know that you don’t know.

            Stay humble.

          • admin October 18, 2017, 8:33 am

            The humble position would be to admit you don’t know what people in 100 years will think of scientists now.

            Some theories and ideas in science last a lot longer than 100 years. Newton’s laws of gravity are still useful ways to describe motion. Einstein only served to modify those laws in a tiny way. It’s most likely that any improvements in the future will be even smaller. Science is progressing.

            Staying humble means accepting the data you have now, coming to conclusions based on that, and knowing that it may be wrong in some one. Being humble doesn’t mean coming up with your own theory that isn’t supported by data but believing that it one day will. That’s the opposite of being humble.

            A statement like “Periods of intense radiation exposure are inevitable…” is not a humble statement. A humble way to say that would be “Periods of intense radiation exposure are possible or likely” Science deals in probability. Nothing is inevitable.

            Be scientific and stay humble.

    • Quaylee April 11, 2017, 11:23 am

      I would have to agree ALOT of people don’t know that our lotions are skin care first tan second , with that said , even though the UV is a necessary element of life as the sun is the giver of life it does take a toile on our skin there for we need something on while exposing to the UV dry skin reflects light and there for we are not making as much vitamin D as we could be.
      As for sun screen….which is what most dermatology people are recommending these days that we put it on all the time and our children to there are studies available to the tanning industry that there is a chemical in sun screen well… several aculy that cause CANCER!
      so please before you bash the good guys who are helping people life healthy normal lives do your research! im licensed in aesthetics myself and was told the sun would give me all sorts of problems …. what my instructor didn’t know is that we NEED the sun …. it is legal to tan in Canada every 24 hours and I do ….. I’ve never had more amazing skin in my life … thank you DESIGNER SKIN for giving us such amazing product! medical grade nothing but the best quality and there research is farrrrr more in-depth then whom ever wrote this article!
      what people don’t know will kill them…..

    • Alex March 17, 2018, 11:45 pm

      Couldn’t it be that something else in your tanning lotion OTHER THAN tyrosine is causing the difference in skin tones?

  • Erin September 11, 2016, 7:13 pm

    Dear, every other week the FDA changes its stance on whether or not eggs have health benefits. If it serves a government agenda, the FDA says it either doesn’t work or will kill you. I’m a holistic specialist and I can tell you, while Tyrosine isn’t the best thing you can use, it works in high enough amounts, with the right supporting ingredients. i.e. You need to increase dopa circulation to promote dual melanin production. Then you need to increase circulation to your capillaries and therefore oxygenation. This process mimics your skin’s natural tanning process. Then use an extending lotion with a good ATO inhibitor after you tan to sustain hydration and inhibit cancerous cell growth. I have found Designer Skin & California Tan to have the best ingredients all around. Both are from the same mother company.

    Tip: It is best to use both a tingling lotion and a lotion that increases melanin production through Dopa, and has bronzes that work both instantly and long term. This helps circulate the dopa (or dopa increasing substance) through the capillaries when they open and provide even distribution. If you live close enough to your salon (Within 15 mins), shower with hot water for 15 minutes to open pores. Then apply tingling lotion. Wait 5 minutes and dress. Then apply bronzing/optimizing lotion when you get to salon. This will promote maximum capillary circulation, skin oxygenation, and transport of melanin producing agents. Make sure your bronzer is not cooling, because that will work to reverse the process. That being said, it’s not a bad idea to keep a cooling bronzer or other deep moisturizing cooling extender with you in case the tingle gets too strong (for those who aren’t used to it). It won’t completely fix it but will dull the sensation. Eat your Omega 3s & a high beta carotene diet for skin hydration and increased help with darker pigmentation. Use your ATO inhibiting moisturizer daily after shower (Luke warm on non tanning days). The best ones also have caffeine and oxygen. Vitamin A,B, C, D, & E are a good idea to increase in your diet if you tan a lot especially. Also, don’t forget your good fats! They’re essential to hydration. Just grab a good prenatal vitamin with folic acid and that should help with all those. For added moisture, use deep tanning oil with Vitamin E (the Walmart stuff you usually see people use at the beach) mixed with a good serum lotion with Vitamin C throughout the day if you feel you need a moisture boost. (Overusing the tan extending lotion any other time than post shower actually just wastes it because your skin needs HEAT to properly absorb most kinds properly) Not to mention, the $7 Banana Boat stuff extends the use of serums significantly. Bonus if your serum contains caffeine or white tea, and avocado, safflower, Jajoba, apricot, and coconut oils.

    I honestly like to mix the Banana boat with the solar recover line when I’m on a tight budget (bath products as well except I use Tiny Bubbles shave lather), or add a couple drops of Lancome’s Absolue Oil (face) & (per each extremity) a dime-quarter size portion of their Renergie Night Cream (more expensive) with the Banana Boat to Deep Steep lotions (lemongrass & jasmine in particular) & the H20 hydration spray to finish for either.

    When I first started tanning, I went almost every day. Now I go once-twice a month with the diet and moisture regiment above. I’m 30 with no stretch marks, wrinkles, or imperfections. My complexion is normally medium to soft tan. I look Hispanic all month.

    Some of my friends mix these ideas with adding Jergens firming and BB body perfecting creams (both the natural glow color enhancing ones) with very good results. The new ones seem to be a lot better when they first came out (a lot less smell and little to no rub off). I haven’t tried them myself.

    I’m not advising anyone to tan. I also have a nursing degree so I know what too much sun can do. If you’re gonna do it, do it right, protect your skin with SPF if outdoors and time limits in singers as well as the right moisturizers and diet to prolong results (thus reducing overall exposure) and reducing signs of aging.

    Hope you all enjoyed actual medical advise. I swear. Everyone is so biased on each side of the “do tan/don’t tan” divide. Everything in moderation and with proper guidance, folks! It’s the key to food, finance, skin care, sun care…you name it!

    • Eden October 11, 2016, 1:49 am

      You’re much more informed than whoever wrote this article! Thank you for sharing your advice. I’ve also found that designer skin lotions make a huge difference in building and maintaining color as opposed to using cheaper lotions or no lotion. The proof is in the results I’ve observed (the color of my skin) while tanning for weeks at a time on different occasions. Designer skin lotions help me build natural color much faster and it stays longer. And I don’t work at a tanning salon or sell any of this stuff. I’m a customer who is open to trying different things that have been recommended and the sales girls are usually spot on with what type of results I can expect.

    • Kate June 15, 2017, 2:25 am

      Erin, as a nurse you legally can’t give out any medical **advice**, only an ACTUAL Doctor can do that. Even then giving any kind of medical **advice** over the internet or phone is illegal. If someone followed through with anything you said and they were in some way injured or hurt, you would be liable. As a nurse you should know that, but you’re a only a holistic specialist; not even a holistic doctor so still… Try paying attention more in class?
      Quaylee, please go read some books and learn some grammar before questioning the people that do the world so much better because people like you are gullible enough to eat or take some pills that will harm your body more than help it.

      Reading over these comments from “tanners’, it is all of y’all that are biased and for your own reasons. Not believing the FDA though is very stupid, the FDA approves every food and medicine that has entered your body since you were born. It is extremely hard to get things such as tanning lotion approved by them for the fact that tanning is considered bad. IT is hard to get any kind of drug approved for the same reason, since their research and testing is ever changing.

      I am a tanner, but I don’t go around making shit up. Tan, if you want but don’t tell people who are intelligent enough to question these things that they’re wrong because you want to justify yourselves.

      • Lucas Waldron October 5, 2017, 12:33 pm

        Hi there,

        Non-tanner here. I take radiation exposure very seriously and avoid exposure wherever I can.

        While Erin’s response was written with a very authoritative tone, it’s good advice. The FDA is not an institution you should be depending on. Educate yourself on the biology, do your own research and most importantly, spend plenty of time thinking about it. Contemplation is undervalued in our society.

        The reality is that we don’t know so, so much. Always consider that when dealing with critical issues such as health, avoiding cancer or maintaining a defense against radiation exposure.

        Time and resources spent investing in the health of your skin is never wasted. It is your last line of defense against the greatest threat to your well-being; radiation. Melanin absorbs and disperses *all forms* of radiation as heat, rather than let it pass through unimpeded and generate free radicals in more sensitive regions of your cells. I highlight all forms because it is a critical concept that I rarely see acknowledged.

        While UVA generates melanin, it is a lower frequency and thus less dispersive/disruptive. An analogy is the thumping bass you would hear outside of the club. It is absorbed less readily and thus can pass through concrete walls and still be audible. UVA can pass through melanin and much of your tissue and still reach your DNA, though the volume/amplitude/energy is greatly reduced (99.9%, more or less) and it will not likely be completely absorbed at any one location (though melanin is like a soundproofing tile in this analogy). Extended exposure can still overwhelm the dispersion factors and generate free radicals which are capable of doing damage to the DNA.

        UVB is similar, though a higher frequency and disperses its energy much more rapidly to the first cells it comes in contact with, increasing the likelihood of burning as well as the potential for damage to the DNA. Paradoxically, it appears that it is less likely to cause cancer on over-exposure (though still possible) than UVA as the cells that generate mutations are many times more likely to trigger apoptosis. Excessive UVB exposure is correlated with advanced aging of the skin due to this increased cell death.

        So there you have it, right? But wait.. UVA and UVB are only two subspectrums of radiation on a very grand whole. There is a vast spectrum of X and Y (kai and gamma) radiation beyond UV. There is also the UVC to consider.. a scary concept and I won’t get into it here.

        Consider that a collapsing star (or even just a microscopic quake on the surface of a magnetar) on the other side of our galaxy has the ability to generate enough gamma radiation to wipe out most life on our planet in one burst should we be unfortunate enough to lie in its path. Your extra melanin won’t be much help to you in such an event, but hey, it won’t hurt.

        There is gamma radiation passing through you constantly, albeit in infinitesimal amounts. Its energy level is so high that, despite its incredibly high frequency and rapid dispersion, it can blast right through your cell wall, melanin, DNA and still have energy to continue.. all the way through you and then deep into the earth. We should all be very grateful that our exposure to this type of radiation is extremely limited.

        You are exposed to significant X radiation regularly from the Sun, as well as from black-body radiation, other stars in our local group and who knows what else. You’re exposed to semi-significant gamma radiation from all ends of the universe, though primarily from activity within our galaxy. There are myriad of different ways for radiation to threaten us with their energy, but they all follow the same laws of physics.

        Melanin is our last line of defense and you should feel satisfied in your decision to generate as much of it as you can, as safely as you can.

        Stay humble

  • Mari June 28, 2017, 5:59 pm

    The FDA is too intertwined with big business — drugs — and the same people cycle between top positions in both areas, just like the business of banking. Argument re total honesty of FDA: none. Closed.

    1) See and Charlie Rose interview with Dr. Patrick Walsh, the surgeon who invented the surgical procedure for prostate cancer. Too little sun kills you — it is the main reason for this cancer north of Atlanta.

    Too much can lead to melanoma etc.
    Balance is the key, as always.

    We are arguing products here. This automatically becomes suspicious. The shill that wrote this is too emotional in her language — a clear sign of an agenda, in my opinion. This is almost always the case when defending the status quo.

    But the FDA is a criminal organizations these days (increasingly, over the years) that also has a history of doing some good, clearly. But these days profits divides the two opposed acts of good and evil. See Marcia Angell’s article, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine:

    https://ethicalnag.org/2009/11/09/nejm-editor/

    Excerpt:

    Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Marcia Angell is the author of The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It. But more to the point, she’s also the former Editor-in-Chief at the New England Journal of Medicine, arguably one of the most respected medical journals on earth. But after reading her article in the New York Review of Books called Drug Companies & Doctors: A Story of Corruption, one wonders if any medical journal on earth is worth anybody’s respect anymore.

    “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.”

    These studies guide the FDA.

    Forget the rubbish opinions of the uninformed — I have given you 2 top sources to make an opinion here.

    The above (Kate) threat to the nurse was mean-spirited.

  • Amy October 30, 2017, 9:53 pm

    The basic fact of the matter- regardless of whatever research the FDA has conducted to decide that topically applied tyrosine is ineffective in aiding the tanning process- is that dry skin reflects light. There are four components of tanning: UVA/UVB which you get from the bulbs in the bed, moisture which you get from your lotion and oxygen which your body takes care of. You should always use the salon recommended products because they are higher quality and use substantially less damaging ingredients like high contents of alcohol or mineral oil. Tanning beds sap your skin- there’s no way around that. The job of the lotion is to replenish your skin with vitamins and moisture (tanning lotions utilize all kinds of extracts, oils, etc to make a top notch product). Additionally, it utilizes ingredients that work to accelerate your tan or provide additional bronzer (whether that be natural from caramel, banana, black walnut extract etc) or extended (DHA: sugar cane based tanning ingredient that reacts with the amino acids and proteins in your top layer of skin to produce a brown pigment- self tanner if you will) which the longer you leave on your skin up to its full capacity, the darker it gets. Tyrosine is just a small aspect of the lotion, yes many believe it to be effective in making your skin produce melanin immediately upon exposure to light. It’s really truly important if you’re going to be tanning to use a lotion.

  • Diane Kay February 2, 2018, 5:11 pm

    30 years ago walmart had a product that was using the tyrosine. It was called called eurotan or euro tan. It’s was an unscenteded and kinda white looking watery spray. I’m not easily impressed. I don’t like any of walmart tanning lotions now because they just don’t work. I don’t easily tan as dark as i was able to achieve using this spray. I recently found the maker and they sell it now off of a small website. it’s a hassle for me now to purchase and the price is doubled if i calculate the shipping cost. I don’t bother but i know it works. it is unbelievable. Im going on vacation this month and i was researching more about the ingredients! I’m done and i’m going to just pay the price it’s worth it!!! I totally dare a nonbeliever to wear this spray just one day while your at the pool. You’ll be darker than you ever thought possible. One tip i discovered is.—– if you use it one afternoon and don’t shower that night and you get up and tan in the morning reapplying the spray. That’s when you see the possibilities of a dark tan. don’t be skimpy either use at least 1 oz if not 2oz. i swear i am not affiliated in any way with this company.

  • J signori March 17, 2018, 11:22 am

    Wow oh wow. I’ve never seen so many stupid people in one place. Randy, they don’t belong to our industry and fail to understand.
    I work in R&D in the personal care industry but also want to get a base tan before my destination wedding so I’m not a lobster in a white dress. I was and still am highly skeptical of the safety of these products. I have found that some of these products contain very bad, bad ingredients in high levels. One such product contains a high percentage of D5 cyclopentasiloxane…which none of you non industry people will know is on the list of carcinogenic ingredients. High doses can cause infertility among other effects. Also… I would stay clear of any products that chemically induce unnatural activation of biological pathways. Tanning is NOT something you should do often. And, you should definitely not believe the claims these products make. From what I’ve seen of the dozens of tanning lotions out there, most of these ridiculously expensive lotions are glorified moisturizers and nothing more. Others contain dihydroxyacetone (or DHA…which btw is a drug made by Merck) which is just a sunless tanner. No tanning bed required. They only put it in there to make it seem like the lotion is accelerating your tan in combo with the bed…truth is, you don’t even need the bed if you’re using DHA. What a waste of money. All you really need in a tanning bed is a good moisturizer so you don’t lose too much hydration. Don’t be scammed by these “salon owners” just trying to make a buck. Some believe they really work and that’s even sadder.

  • Dorla Whalen March 30, 2018, 10:46 am

    I totally disagree I’ve tanned with L-tyrosine and without and definitely had a better tan with

Leave a Comment