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By J. Elaine Spear

Tingle products are a hot trend in tanning, but how do they really work?


Tingle products, first introduced to the U.S. market by John Abate International, provide the red-hot proof that many tanners crave to ensure they're catching some potent rays at your salon. The flush, the rush and the instant glow that linger after their session make them feel good about spending time intensifying the depth and hue of their tans.

Many celebrities tan with tingle products just prior to big events because they love the way they make their already bronzed skin glow for the camera. And tanners from all walks of life swear that, beyond walking out of your salon looking great, tingle products help them achieve a truly deep tan in a shorter period of time. While there's no doubt that the popularity of tingle products has made them a profitable retail item for tanning salons, there are still some lingering questions about whether or not they actually do improve the end result. In the interest of separating fact from fiction, we've asked Industry experts to discuss the science behind this popular category of products, as well as to mete out some  good, common sense advice. Here's what our experts have to say:

Why do tingle products create a tingling sensation?

Tingle ingredients are typically rubefacients external applications that cause redness of the skin," says Tamie Sunday, director of education for Nutra Labs/Glimra in Phoenix. Rubefacients increase blood flow to the skin by dilating the skin's microcirculation a network of small capillaries near the surface of the skin that provide oxygen and nutrition to the tissue cells and take away metabolic waste. "This produces a feeling of warmth by increasing the temperature at the point of application. Nerve cells then register this temperature increase as a tingling sensation. Currently, the most common tingle ingredients are nicotinates which are derivatives of niacin."

According to medical sources, niacin, also referred to as nicotinic acid and vitamin B3 - is essential for all cell respiration. It also aids in the release of energy and metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins; encourages proper circulation and promotes healthy skin. This essential acid can be found in brewer's yeast, fish, peanuts and even your morning coffee. In measured doses, niacin or vitamin B3 taken internally is often prescribed by physicians to treat high cholesterol, muscular weakness and even dementia. When applied topically, nicotinates of all types simply increase the blood flow through the microcirculation of the skin.

Do tingle products actually intensify tanning results?

Industry experts readily admit there are no scientific studies that prove that tingle products increase tanning results. But they do give credence to the claims made by many tanners who say that tingle products help them tan faster and darker. "The red flushing created by tingle products is due to increased blood flow," says Deborah Pierce, vice­ president of research and technology for California Tan in Westwood, California. "This will naturally add immediate color to the skin after a tanning session. This factor, coupled with the color generated in the immediate pigment darkening reac­tion, will yield a more intense­ appearing tan. Both of these responses are transitory in nature­ the actual tanning process will generate the melanin production within 48 hours of the tanning session."

Sunday notes that true tanning is the ultimate manifestation of a series of oxidation steps that transform tyrosine into melanin via an enzyme called tyrosinase "The tanning, or melanin formation, intensifies with the increased concentration of tyrosine, oxygen and tyrosinase," she explains. "This trio of substances in the skin is increased when the blood flow is increased. Logically, the flushing response to tingle ingredients should intensify tanning, although no scientific study has been done to demonstrate this to be true."

Are tingle products good for the skin?

Gross overuse of tingle lotions has been known to cause skin irritations but when used properly, increasing microcirculation blood flow actually enhances the nourishment of the skin at a cellular level. "Skincare professionals currently use a variety of tools and products to improve microcirculation," says Lee Hubbard, an independent skincare therapist in Laguna Hills, California. "This en­hances cell vitality, which, in turn, discourages premature aging and lackluster, sluggish skin. Bioelectric machines as well as ultrasound machines, a variety of different skin care products, and even pure oxygen treatments are being used by skin therapists and physicians to improve microcirculation."

Does using tingle lotions require any precautions?

"Any time you apply a product that elicits a strong response, there are definite cautions that should be heeded," says Sunday. According to Sunday, some of those precautions include:

 - Tingle products should never be applied to broken skin.

 - Tanners should avoid applying tingle products to their eyes, nose and genital areas.

- Tanners with sensitive skin shouldn't use tingle products.

- New tanners should probably avoid tingle products.

- Under no circumstances should these products be used by children.

- Because the most common tingle ingredients are nicotinates, people who are sensitive to niacin should avoid tingle lotions.

How do I know how much tingle a product will produce?

Most manufacturers have developed their own rating systems, some with graphics ‑such as a thermometer

to indicate the strength of the tingle product. "There may still be some confusion on the part of tanners, though, simply because there's no universal rating system for tingle intensity," says Dale Hansen, president of Hoss Sauce in Portland, Oregon. "What may be a 4 rating for one lotion, for instance, could equal a 3 rating for another. This is why it's so important to know your products. Any time you add a new tingle lotion to your product line, talk to a knowledgeable company representative about the strength of the tingle and the progression of the intensity in the  line. Once you're satisfied with the answer, try the product yourself."

What usage directions should I give to my clients?

Pierce urges all salon owners to make sure their tingle lotion bottles are clearly labelled. "This is essential

for the safe use of these products," she advises. "Manufacturers have methods of identifying the intensity of tingle a product will produce on the skin," says Pierce. "Still, even the best labeling efforts can be misunderstood especially by novice tanners who aren't familiar with this lotion category."

Pierce vividly remembers the first time she used a product with reddening agents. "The bottle wasn't properly labeled, and I was unpleasantly surprised," she says. "I was in the tanning bed when I began itching, tingling and turning red. I thought I was having a very bad allergic reaction to the product. There was no indication or warning on the packaging that these were the expected results, and the person who sold me the product didn't say anything about these reactions. It was later that I learned about tingle products. Now, I love using them, but I never want to be surprised like that again. It's important that all tanners be given enough information about tingle products to make informed choices."

We've determined that most tanners don't read the labels in their entirety unless they have a problem or question after they've already used the product," says Hansen "Our tingle products contain cautions like, Warning. Keep out of the reach of children. This product causes a temporary reddening sensation. Not intended for use on sensitive skin. Discontinue if rash appears. These cautions represent essential labeling information, but and you can't assume that because these statements are printed on the bottle, tanners will read them before using the product." Hansen advises that salon owners learn as much as they possibly can about every product they carry how they work, why they work and the precautions involved with each formulation. He believes this is the only way that owners can give their employees the right information to pass on to tanners. In the case of tingle products this means understanding why certain products produce a tingling sensation, who should use them and who should not," says Hansen.

Is the FDA considering regulating some tingle ingredients?

Rumors about rubefacients particularly nicotinates being under consideration for regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have circulated for quite some time. A check of the FDA's Web site (, followed by a call to the agency, produced no information about official discussions regarding regulating tingle ingredients. According to tanning industry experts, though, the possibil­ity of future controls by the FDA is still open for debate. Sunday, for instance, believes that FDA regulation isn't likely to occur since rubefacients are topically applied to the skin as opposed to being ingested, making them far less likely to be subject to strict govern ment policies. "The only known side effect when using tingle lotions even when used in large amounts is irritation of the skin," she says. Pierce says she prefers not to see any type of FDA regulation of tingleingredients become a necessity. "The FDA needs to become involved any time products cause illness or injury to the user," says Pierce. "Even though they're intense by nature, red–dening products are considered tran–sitory since the response time only lasts from 30 minutes to 2 hours. However, if a person with sensitive skin uses a tingle lotion, he or she may have a more prolonged response to the reddening agents, which may occasionally cause swelling. This is  where good labelling on the part of  manufacturers, and great education by salons, becomes essential. I believe that as long as we continue to be a self-regulating industry, there will be no need for the FDA to impose guidelines on tingle ingredients."  


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