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Profile: Dihydroxyacetone (DHA)

Commonly known as: Dihydroxyacetone, DHA, 1,3-dihydroxy-2-propanone, glycerone, 1,3-dihydroxydimethyl, ketone.
I.N.C.I. list name: Dihydroxyacetone.
Extraction process: Fermentation and bacterial bioconversion of glycerol based on beetroot.
Source: Plant-based.
Botanical name: Beta vulgaris L.
Family: Chenopodiaceae.
Part of the plant extracted: Roots.
Provenance, origin: France.
Chemical characteristics: Monomer of carbohydrate (hydrate of carbon); Soluble in aqueous environment; Insoluble in oil; Molecular weight: 90.08 g/mol; Recommended pH: 4.0 - 7.0.
Characteristics: Colloidal solution, emulsion, true aqueous solution.
Dosage required in cosmetic products: In non-oxidizing hair dyes: maximum concentration of 6.25%; In self-tanning products: between 5 and 10% maximum.
Function: Reducing agent, hair coloring agent, skin care agent, tanning agent.
Properties: Self-tanning.
Benefits: All types of skin and hair.



  • Self-Tanning: Imparting a tanned effect to the skin, which is proportional to the amount of DHA incorporated into the formulation, by reacting with the amino acids of the cells in the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the epidermis) to form a special brown pigment called "melanoidin" (Maillard reaction).


  • Facial Care (mists, serums, face creams, masks);

  • Body Care (creams/gels/body milks, tanning foams);

  • Hair Care (hair lotions, hair mists, oils, hair dyes).

Method of Preservation

DHA is sensitive to heat. It should be kept away from air and moisture, and stored between +2°C and +8°C.

Contraindications, Usage Precautions

Approved for use in self-tanning products by the FDA and the European Union's Scientific Committee, the DHA is considered safe for consumer health. Indeed, no bothersome side effects are currently known from the topical application of DHA, due to the fact that it does not penetrate beyond the stratum corneum. However, although it is generally well tolerated by most, it can sometimes cause contact dermatitis (bumps, redness, irritation). The best course of action is to perform a skin patch test on a small area of the body before a widespread application, especially in cases of sensitive or easily irritated skin.

However, all areas of the body covered by mucous membranes should avoid it (mouth, eyes, etc.), especially if you apply it by spraying (tanning booth, mist, etc.). Indeed, inhalation can cause DNA damage and thus pose a risk of cancer. Additionally, DHA can stain the skin up to 24 hours after its application, so remember to wash your hands thoroughly after each use.

It is not recommended to use alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) if you are applying a DHA-based self-tanner, as they can accelerate its degradation. Finally, this method of tanning without sun exposure does not trigger melanin production and therefore does not provide any protective effect against UV radiation, like that provided by melanin. It is strongly advised to apply a broad-spectrum sun protection with an SPF of at least 30.

Find out more

Originally, DHA was used as a natural sweetener for people with diabetes. It is now commonly used as the sole sunless tanning agent, ever since it was discovered in the 1950s that it caused a brown pigmentation of the skin. However, since the 1990s, it has been combined with erythrulose, another sugar derivative. This combination not only eliminated the orange-toned tan, but also resulted in a longer-lasting color. When applied topically, DHA induces a tanned complexion in 4 to 6 hours, by reacting with the amine functions carried by the amino acids of the proteins present in the cells of the upper layer of the epidermis (horny layer) to form pigments, the melanoidins, responsible for skin coloration through the Maillard reaction. However, this color gradually fades to completely disappear in 5 to 7 days. This phenomenon is explained by the frequent renewal of the horny layer (natural desquamation process).