At Norvell we are a “true manufacturer” of all the products we sell. The term true manufacturer means we manufacture (create) and control the production and formulation of our products from the beginning to the very end. 


Sunless tanning sprays, gels, creams, and lotions color the skin without exposure to ultraviolet exposure. The main ingredient in such products is C3H6O3, or dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA is a simple sugar derived from sugarcane, sugar beets, and the fermentation of glycerin. The colorless 3-carbon sugar compound binds with the first layer of skin, the stratum corneum.

These “dead” skin cells lack a nucleus and organelles, and are thus unable to reproduce. However, the dead cells still contain keratin, an amino acid responsible for skin coloration.

When DHA chemically reacts with the keratin in the skin cells, there is a resulting darkening effect. These pigments, called melanoidins, range from yellow to brown, just like the natural melanin of found within the skin’s layers.


This reaction is known as the Maillard reaction also known as “nonenzymematic browning”.

It can be influenced by several factors such as skin type, thickness, pH levels, medications and dryness of the skin. The total composition of the sunless tanning products greatly influences consistency, hue, intensity of the final tan.


To optimize this reaction certain conditions need to be met. As far as skin condition is concerned, it is important that exfoliation is carried out to remove loose/dead skin from the surface. This allows the sunless product to be applied to the freshest layer of skin, allowing for an even application and prolonging the tan.


The reaction is also affected by pH both on the skin and in the product itself. Sunless products begin to develop within 3-4 hours after application, and continue to darken as long as 24 hours after they are applied.

The intensity of the color is dependent on the proper pH balance of the skin, the formulations concentration of the DHA, along with the natural skin color and tone.


The “sunless” color gradually fades as the dead skin cells flake off, typically within a 4-7 day period depending on the individual and the proper skin maintenance. Prolonged water submersion, swimming in pools, or heavy sweating can lighten the tan by accelerating the shedding process.


Over the past year, several questions have been fielded at Norvell over safety concerns and spray tanning. As industry leaders, we strive to be informative and keep our clients up to date on all current studies in regards to this topic.

The most current and informative scientific study available to our industry on sunless spray tanning was performed by the European Commission’s Safety Commission on Consumer Safety (EC SCCS). This valuable information is the foundation of Norvell’s training and educational programs.

We encourage all professionals in our industry to review the full study as it contains beneficial information for you and your business. The detailed report can be found online here.

The FDA has also set out recommendations, not mandates, which Norvell® fully supports and endorses. When spraying DHA tanning solutions, either by handheld system or through automatic spray booths, the following precautions are suggested:

  • Use of Protective Undergarments
  • Use of Nose Filters
  • Use of Protective Eye Shields
  • Use of Lip Balm

Additionally, although not required by the FDA, as with exposure to all airborne particulates (mist), Norvell proactively recommends the use of disposable filtering masks for all sunless technicians during spray sessions, along with their standard overspray filtering equipment.  We encourage you to review the following documents where you can find in-depth information concerning DHA, along with the full European Commission study previously mentioned.