Social norms for tanning in many parts of the world have dramatically changed in recent times. Before the Industrial Revolution, tanned skin conveyed the social status of an outdoor laborer; post-revolution, however, many jobs moved indoors and the general wealth of the public increased—along with paid vacations and modified work weeks. Thus, the public was able to enjoy leisure time, especially outdoors, and having a tan then conveyed a social status of wealth, especially during the winter months. Indeed, many college students enjoy their “spring break” in Florida, Mexico and other warm destinations. This practice has been taking place as almost a ritual for the past 50 years on US college campuses.
While more information has become available regarding the negative effects of UV exposure, and the public is beginning to slowly understand the dangers and thereby modify lifestyle choices toward safer sun practices, the change has been slow because sun exposure behavior is in part influenced by psychological and societal factors, as well as general confusing messages from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), bloggers, etc. Self-tanning preparations are therefore becoming an increasingly important option for those desiring a tanned look without exposing themselves to undue harm, although there is as yet some reticence among the public for using them. This article reviews the ingredients and mechanisms of action of self-tanners, in addition to the formulating challenges of such products.