The Difference Between A Tan Extender & Gradual Tanner

This is a common question that I get asked so I thought it would be great topic for our blog!


I am going to discuss my gradual tanner and tan extender products. Every manufacturer has different formulations and recommendations so please keep that in mind. Both of these products are a body lotion that contains a percentage of dha ( Dihydroxyacetone) The active ingredient in any self tanning product. The difference is the level and tint.

Lets discuss the Tan Extender first:

The extender is a formulation with a small touch of dha. This extender is formulated to work in conjunction with a sunless tan or regular tan & is not very strong as to avoid turning the tan brassy or orange.  When you have a sunless tan you do not want to “load on” more dha as it might be too much for the skin to handle ( especially for the fairer clients)

With this product the client should start applying the tan extender a few days into the tan when they see the color starting to fade on the areas necessary so they can “extend the tan”

This product is not going to make the tan much darker but it will put color back onto the skin to extend and prolong the sunless application. This is also a crucial product to offer your clients if they are going to be doing any water activities. The tan extender is a clear formula so it will not stain clothes or sheets. Even though it is clear they can not sweat or get wet so I recommended applying before bed.

Now for the Gradual Tanner:

The gradual tanner contains a higher strength dha and is also a tinted formula.  This product is recommended primarily for people that don’t have a tan and want to build one gradually from scratch to get color in 2-3 days time.  They would apply once or twice a day depending on skin tone.

This product can also be used as a tinted tan extender on clients that can tan very well. But be careful! If a fair client used the gradual tanner over a spray tan it might be too strong causing orange.

So I hope this clarifies the difference between the 2 products. If you have any questions please contact us and we can make the proper recommendation.


Happy Tanning XO – Melissa


Melissa Weinberg is the creator of Perfect Glow Sunless . A premium luxury line of professional spray tan solution and self-tanning products. Her products are used by professional salons and spas all over the world. She is also a South Florida spray tan expert and offers online and in person spray tan training. For more information visit for more course information.