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The Correct Skin Care for Being Under the Sun

To get a beautiful, even and long-lasting tan, certain ingredients in cosmetic products are very helpful. Most of these ingredients stimulate melanin production and thus provide a healthy complexion. Discover here the most important active ingredients that can help to optimize your tan.

Published April 5, 2023, updated on June 3, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 4 min read

Tanning: What Exactly Is Happening?

Although sunlight offers many benefits to the body, it also has numerous undesirable side effects that vary in severity (sunburn, pigmentation spots, accelerated photoaging, skin disorders, etc.). To protect themselves from these inconveniences during sunbathing, melanocytes produce melanin, the pigment responsible for the brown color of the skin.

This pigment reaches the surface of the epidermis and stains it, which is called tanning. This natural process allows the skin to withstand the harmful effects of the sun's UV rays. Once melanin is synthesized, it coats the nucleus of keratinocytes, forming a filter that can protect DNA from the mutagenic and carcinogenic effects of UV rays. This pigment is able to absorb about 50% of UVA and 85% of UVB rays that reach the skin. Melanin can also eliminate free radicals produced in the body by UV radiation, thus limiting premature skin aging.

Important: Although the process of melanogenesis protects the skin from UV rays, it does not exempt the use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen for areas of the body exposed to the sun and the need to apply it every two hours.

Which Active Ingredients Can Boost Your Tanning Game?

To get a nice tan, cosmetic products can help if they contain the right active ingredients. The following list is not complete, but it includes the main ingredients that promote tan when applied topically.

  • Carrot macerate

    Thanks to its high content of vitamin A and carotenoids, this plant oil is lightly colored and gives the complexion a healthy glow. Furthermore, carrot macerate revitalizes the radiance of dull skin and gives it a light tan thanks to the stimulating effect it has on melanin synthesis. Beta-carotene, which belongs to the carotenoid family, has been shown to have an effect on melanogenesis. Finally, carrot macerate is an excellent antioxidant that can be used to protect the skin from free radicals.

  • Buriti oil

    This oil is extracted by cold pressing from the pulp of the buriti tree. This tree is native to the Amazon region. Like carrot macerate, buriti oil has an orange color and is rich in carotenoids that can stimulate melanin production in the skin. This ingredient also has antioxidant and photoprotective characteristics.

  • The extract from the pulp of the carob tree

    This natural extract is rich in inositol, a molecule that can intensify and prolong the tan. It acts mainly on diacylglycerol/protein kinase C (DAG/PKC). This mechanism triggers a reaction cascade that ultimately leads to the activation of tyrosinase, the key enzyme in melanogenesis.

  • Tyrosine

    Tyrosine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in the body. It is a precursor of melanin, which means that it is converted into melanin by the activity of an enzyme, in this case tyrosinase. This active ingredient thus has a positive effect on the tan and promotes it.

  • Certain peptides

    In some cosmetic products called “tanning booster”, peptides can boost melanin synthesis, such as acetylhexapeptide. However, their mechanism of activity is not communicated by the brands.

  • Self-tanning ingredients

    The molecules in self-tanning products provide a sun-tanned complexion without exposing you to the dangers of the sun. The most commonly used substances include dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and erythrulose, which are sometimes used in combination. DHA is a molecule of plant origin that can induce a tan on the skin within 4 to 6 hours. It reacts with amino acids in the stratum corneum of the epidermis through a Maillard reaction to form pigments called melanoidins, which are responsible for skin coloration. Erythrulose is a sugar that acts similar to DHA, but slower. It is often combined with it to achieve a more natural and even tan. Likewise, erythrulose has moisturizing properties that counteract the drying effects of DHA.


  • PUGLIESE P. The skin, free radicals, and oxidative stress. Dermatology Nursing (1995).


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