Potential of phyto-constituents as a skin tanning agents


Tilottama M. Gatkine*1, Vaishnavi S. Shete1 , Nilesh M. Mahajan1, Ujwala N. Mahajan2

1Department of Pharmaceutics, Dadasaheb Balpande College of Pharmacy,  Besa, Nagpur, MS, India - 440037

2Department of Quality Assurance, Dadasaheb Balpande College of Pharmacy, Besa, Nagpur, MS, India - 440037

*Corresponding Author E-mail: tilottamagatkine@gmail.com



Sun tanning is the process in which skin color is darkened or tanned. The first effect of sun light is the erythema (redness) of the skin followed by formation of tan. The moderate exposure to the sun contributes to the production of melanin and vitamin D by the body. Melanin is to protect skin cells from Ultraviolet (UV) B radiation damage. After damaging the DNA by UV light, p53 get activate and then transcription of host gene including pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC)  is done and its leads to increased release of α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone which gives signals to melanocytes via the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) to  increased melanogenesis and transfer of melanosomes to keratinocytes, which together, are responsible for the tanning response.  Tanning preparations are oils, lotions, creams, or gels containing UV-B chemical sunscreens with lower sun protection factor (SPF) to facilitate tanning without burning. Some people use chemical products which can gives a tanning effect without exposure to UV radiation, this process is known as sunless tanning. Most of the herbs are responsible to tan the skin or to increases the skin pigmentation. Various skin tanning products available in market using different herbal excipients but some are banned ingredients are also their which are hazardous to the people and its better to used it in small quantity or to avoid its use. According to Transparency Market Research’s recently published report by the end of 2026, global self tanning products market will expand steadily at CAGR of 5.3% during the forecast period, 2017-2026.


KEYWORDS: Skin tanning, Herbal ingredients, Sun protection factor (SPF), Sunless tanning product, Market potential.



Our skin is our body's first point of contact with the outside world. There are two types of skin, glabrous and hairy. Glabrous skin, found on the palms and soles of the feet, lacks hair follicles and sebaceous glands but has a very thick epidermis and encapsulated sense organs in the dermis. In hairy skin, hair follicles and sebaceous glands are both present, but there are no encapsulated sensory organs.




There are two main functions of the skin :-

·                     Protection

·                     Communication and control[1]


1.1  Skin type

The current Fitzpatrick classification denotes six different skin types, skin color (example), and sun history which ranges from very fair (skin type I) to very dark (skin type VI) depending upon whether patient burns at the first average sun exposure or tans at first average sun exposure. The two main factors that influence skin type are given :-

1. Genetic disposition

2. Reaction to sun exposure and tanning habits[2]


Table No. 1: The Fitzpatrick scale categories skin types into six groups based on inherent skin color and response to UV exposure.[3]

Skin type


Sun history




Very fair; red-headed, freckled, lrish/scots/welsh

Always burns, never tans; extremely sun-sensitive




White to beige skin; fair-skinned, fair-haired, blue or green-eyed, Caucasian

Burns easily, tans minimally; very sun-sensitive


(scores 17-24)

Beige skin; average skin

Burns moderately, tans gradually to light brown; minimally sun-sensitive


(scores 25-30)

Light brown skin; Mediterranean-type Caucasians

Burns minimally, tans well to moderate brown; minimally sun-sensitive


(scores >30)

Moderate brown skin; Middle eastern, some Hispanics, some African-Americans

Rarely burns, tans profusely to dark


(scores >30)

Very Dark or black skin; African-American

Never burns, tans profusely


1.2 Skin tanning :

Sun tanning  is the process in which skin color is darkened or tanned. The first effect of sun light is the erythema (redness) of the skin followed by formation of tan. Moderate exposure to the sun contributes to the production of melanin and vitamin D by the body.[4] Melanin is to protect skin cells from UVB radiation damage.  A sun light stimulates blood circulation and increases the formation of haemoglobin due to the exposure to  UV radiation from sunlight.[5] Some people who deliberately tan their skin by exposure to the sun engage in a passive recreational activity of the sun bathing. Tanning preparations are oils, lotions, creams, or gels containing UV-B chemical sunscreens with lower SPF to facilitate tanning without burning. The tanning response is the additional production and distribution of melanin in the epidermal layer. So-called tan accelerators, containing tyrosine, purportedly accelerate tanning by providing the precursor to melanin pigmentation to be applied before UV exposure.[6] Some people use chemical products which can gives a tanning effect without exposure to UV radiation, this process is known as sunless tanning.


1.3  Types of skin tanning :

There are three types of skin tanning[5] :-

·           Immediate tanning :- Immediate darkening of un-oxidized melanin granules present in epidermal layer near the surface of the skin. It begins to fade within 2-3 hours of exposure.

·           Delayed tanning :- Melanin granules present in the basal cells layer of epidermis get oxidized and migrate towards surface of the skin. It  starts fading after 100-200 hrs.

·           True tanning:- True tanning or melanogenesis starts about two days after exposure and reaches maxima in about 2-3 weeks.


1.4        Mechanism of tanning :

When UV light damages DNA, this leads to activation of the tumor-suppressor gene p53 in keratinocytes through the displacement of negative regulators such as mouse double minute 2 (MDM2). Activation of p53 induces transcription of a host of target genes, including the pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) gene and a group of proinflammatory cytokines. The transcription of POMC in sun-exposed keratinocytes leads to an increased release of alpha melanocyte-stimulating hormone, which is a cleavage product of POMC. The alphamelanocyte-stimulating hormone (a-MSH) then signals to melanocytes via the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R). This results in increased melanogenesis, melanocytic differentiation, and transfer of melanosomes to keratinocytes, which, together, are responsible for the tanning response. This pathway also produces b-endorphin, another POMC derivative, which potentially contributes to the addictive potential of tanning . There is evidence that p53 plays a critical role in UV-induced skin darkening.[7-8]


1.5      Mechanism of self tanning without UV

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describes sunless self-tanners as a cosmetic intended to produce a tanned color change to the skin without the requirement of UV exposure.


Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is a colorless dye that when added to the skin, reacts with free amino acids in stratum corneum (SC), the outermost layer of the skin, creating a semi-permanent brown color change.  Studies have shown that DHA reacts most readily with lysine, glycine, and histidine which are all present in the stratum corneum.  This reaction is known as the Maillard reaction.[9]


1.6   Skin tanning products[10]:- 

Table No.2: Skin tanning products available in market :-



Herbal Products

Herbal Constituents



Sunless tanning lotion


For skin tanning.


Sunless tanning gel

Apricot kernel oil, Chamomille Recutita flower

For skin tanning.


Self-Tanning Mousse

Cucumber Fruit Extract, Rhubarb Root Extract

For skin tanning.


Self-Tanning Cream (o/w)

Meadowfoam Seed Oil

For skin tanning.


Self-Tanning Lotion for Pump-Spray Bottles

Xanthan Gum

For skin tanning.



1.7  Market potential of skin tanning products[11]:-

Consumers from different cultures are preferring to used the  products that facilitate skin care treatments such as a tanning. Companies are also actively capitalizing on this trend by offering the products that can providing naturally tanned treatment to the skin despite the indoor use. Beiersdorf Aktiengesells chaft, L'Oréal S.A., Avon Products, Inc., Johnson and Johnson Services, Inc., Shiseido Co., Ltd., Kao Corporation, The Estee Lauder Companies Inc., The Procter and Gamble Company, Christian Dior SE., and Unilever PLC are recognized as the leaders in the global production of the self tanning products. These companies will continue to deliver the new and improved range on self tanning products in the foreseeable future.


According to the Transparency Market Research’s recently published report, these companies are poised to instrument the global expansion of the self tanning products market. By the end of 2026, demand for the self tanning products is expected to have gained steady traction, amassing global revenues worth nearly US$ 5.5 Bn. The report further reveals that global self tanning products market will expand steadily at  CAGR of 5.3% during the forecast period, 2017-2026.


1.8  Banned ingredients hazardous to skin 1 :-

Some are banned ingredients are given as follows which are hazards  to the people and its better to used it in very small quantity or to avoid its use .:-


1.8.1           p-Aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and its derivatives.:- These are well-known UVB screening agents, still popular in the USA but uncommon in Europe. Apart from PABA itself, the most commonly used derivative is 2-ethylhexyl-p-dimethylaminobenzoate (Octyldimethyl PABA) at allowable levels up to 8.0%. It has an absorption peak at 311 nm. Its causes allergic reaction and also stain clothing.


1.8.2           Cinnamates.:- Cinnamic acid esters are more popular in Europe than the PABA compounds. The best known is 2-ethylhexyl-p-methoxycinnamate (Octylmethoxycinnamate) at levels up to 10%. This also has an absorption maximum at 311 nm. Other well-known cinnamates are isoamyl-p-methoxycinnamate and 2-ethoxyethyl-/?-methoxycinnamate. It causes the skin irritation when it absorbed through skin.


1.8.3           Salicylates. :- Well known and often used, octyl salicylate has an absorption peak at 307 nm and can be used at levels up to 5%. Its overall protective effect, however, is poor, its absorbance being far less than PABA or cinnamate derivatives of equivalent concentration. It is often used as a synergist with other sunscreens since it aids their solubility. Homomenthyl salicylate (homosalate) has similar characteristics but may be used at levels up to 10%. It is used as a standard in some SPF determinations in vivo study. It causes the neurotoxicity.


1.8.4           Anthranilates.:- Menthyl anthranilate has an absorption peak at 336 nm and is therefore employed as a UVA screen at up to 5% concentration in the USA. It is not permitted in Europe. It causes skin irritation.


1.8.5           Camphor derivatives.:- 3-(4-Methylbenzylidene) camphor is becoming much more widely used in European countries as a UVB sunscreen, despite its comparatively low peak absorbance wavelength of 300 nm. This is primarily because sun product photostability, and therefore sunfilter photostability, has become an issue in recent years. This camphor derivative is reported to have superior photostability compared with many other sunfilters and, in addition, can improve the photostability of other filters when used in combination with them. It is allowed up to a maximum concentration of 6%; 3-benzylidene camphor is also allowed up to the same maximum level. It causes photoallergic dermatitis.


1.8.6           Benzophenones.:- The benzophenone sunscreens have absorption peaks at wavelengths greater than 320 nm and are frequently employed as UVA screens. 2-Hydroxy-4-methoxy-benzophenone (benzophenone-3 or oxybenzone) is widely used at up to 10% concentration in combination with UVB screens to give broad-spectrum protection. This is particularly the case in the USA where, until recently, benzophenones were the only allowed UVA filters apart from methyl anthranilate. It causes oestrogenic effect.


1.8.7           Dibenzoylmethanes.:- These materials are the most commonly used UV-A absorbing materials, particularly in the EU where they have been allowed for many years. The most widely used derivative is 4-£-butyl-4'-methoxydibenzoylmethane, which has its peak absorbance at 358 nm, right in the middle of the UVA range. This material was until recently not allowed in the USA, but it has recently been added to the permitted list at levels between 1% and 3%. In Europe it can be used at concentrations up to 5%. 4-Isopropyldibenzoylmethane is another useful filter with its peak of absorbance around 345 nm. It cause the contact allergies.


1.8.9           Octocrylene.:- This is a relatively new sunfilter which is allowed in both the EU and the USA at levels up to 10% (expressed as acid). Chemically, it is 2-cyano3,3-diphenyl acrylic acid, 2-ethylhexyl ester. It has its peak absorbance at 303 nm. It can causes skin irritation.

1.8.10        Propylene glycol:- Frequent skin exposure to propylene glycol can sometimes irritate the skin. An acute dermal exposure of eczema patients to 0.2 and 22.8 mg/cm2 of propylene glycol caused skin edema and erythema in 3.8% of the 823 patients that were skin tested. [12]


1.9           Herbs used for skin tanning[13-18] :-

Different herbs have been used in medicines and cosmetics from centuries. There potential to treat different skin diseases, to adorn and improve the skin appearance is well-known. As ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause sunburns, wrinkles, lower immunity against infections, premature aging, and cancer, there is permanent need for the protection from UV radiation and prevention from their side effects. Herbal materials and their preparations have a high potential due to their antioxidant activity. Although the  isolated plants compounds have a high potential in protection of the skin, whole herbs extracts showed better potential due to their complex composition.


Table No. 3 :- Cyperus scariosus R.Br. (Nagarmotha)



Chemical constituent


β-sitosterol, α-cyperone, Sesquiterpenes, Tannins, Alkaloids, Essential oils (α-longipinane, β-selinene, cyperene, and Caryophyllene oxide), and Flavonoids

Active constituents responsible for skin tanning



Production of melanin and use for pigmentation of skin.

Part of plant

From rhizomes and tubers



Table No. 4 :- Cullen corylifolium (L.)Medik (Bavachi)



Chemical constituent


Coumarins, Flavonoids, Furocoumarins, Coumestrols, Chalcone, Benzofuran, Meroterpenes,  Psoralean

Active constituents responsible for skin tanning

Coumarins, Furocoumarins,  Psoralean



In skin tanning, increases the production of melanin

Part of plant

From seeds



Table No. 5:- Pongamia pinnata (L.) pierre (Karanj)



Chemical constituent


Furanoflavones, karanjin, Pongapin, Kanjone, Pongaglabrone,Pongamia oil.

Active constituents responsible for skin tanning

Karanjin, Pongamia oil


It is used to enhance the skin pigmentation.

Part of plant

From seeds





Table No. 6 :- Cassia fistula(Bahava)



Chemical constituent


Catechin, Epicatechin, Kaempferol, Fistacacidin, Fisucacidin, Leucocyanidin, Leucopelargonidin trimer , Rhein Glycoside, Hexacosanol, Lupeol and β-sitosterol.

Active constituents responsible for skin tanning

Catechin, Epicatechin


It is largely used for skin tanning.

Part of plant

From bark


Osmanthus  fragrance (Fragrant Olive)[19] :-

Belongs to family Oleaceae. Melanin extracted from Osmanthus fragrance seeds.


Nyctanthes arbor-tristis (Parijat)[20] :-

Belongs to family Oleaceae. Melanin extracted from Nyctanthes arbor-tristis fruit and seeds.






Tumor suppressor




α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone


Melanocortin 1 receptor


sun protection factor


Cumulative average growth rate


Mouse  double minute 2


Food and Drug Administration




Stratum  corneum


p-Aminobenzoic acid








US dollar





The authors would like to acknowledge the Dadasaheb Balpande College of Pharmacy, Besa, Nagpur  for providing access to important literature in the preparation of this review article.



The authors declare no conflict of interest.



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Received on 10.04.2019                    Accepted on 19.05.2019

©A&V Publications all right reserved

Research J. Topical and Cosmetic Sci.10(1):34-38.

DOI: 10.5958/2321-5844.2019.00008.6