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Anna G. Larson, Published August 09 2012

What is DHA?

The active ingredient in most sunless tanning products is dihydroxyacetone.

DHA is a color additive that reacts with dead cells in the outermost layer of skin to temporarily darken the skin’s appearance. The coloring doesn’t wash off, but it gradually fades as the dead skin cells slough off according to the Mayo Clinic.

DHA is listed in U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations as a color additive for use in imparting color to the human body. Its use in cosmetics, which includes sunless tanning products, is restricted to external application according to the FDA.

The use of DHA in spray-tanning booths has not been approved by the FDA. According to the FDA, firms and individuals who market cosmetics are responsible for assuring that the products they market are safe when used under labeled or customary conditions of use and properly labeled.