Are Spray Tans Safe?

Dangers of Spray Tan Are Minimal, But Do Exist

Spray tanning has been around for a long time. It was first approved by the FDA in the 1970s. What is basically known as a “spray tan” today can be traced back to the 1920s when various powders and cosmetics first came into us to mimic a real tan produced by the sun.

Without a doubt, spray tanning has a decades-long reputation as being a safer alternative to baking one’s skin under the sun, or with the artificial UV rays provided by a tanning booth.

Potential Dangers

So while spray tanning is generally safe, there are some dangers everyone should be aware of before submitting to an all-over application of skin-tanning substances.

The primary ingredient in spray tan cosmetics is a form of sugar called DHA, which stands for “dihydroxyacetone.” It is derived from sugar beets, sugar cane or the fermentation of glycerin.

The primary danger in applying this substance to the body surface is the possibility of inhalation of some of the spray. This may cause severe headaches, nausea or dizziness.

In a worst-case scenario, inhaling DHA may raise the risk of an asthmatic reaction, cause chronic obstructive lung disease or even cancer, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. These latter problems are extremely rare, however.

Another concern is that a small amount of DHA might be absorbed by the skin and allowed to enter the bloodstream, said Dr. Darrell Rigel, a dermatology professor at New York University. Dr. Rigel admits, however, that there are no cases where direct absorption of DHA through the skin has produced negative health concerns.

The greater danger is if the spray-tan subject has a cut, scratch or open sore that would allow DHA to slip past the normal barrier of the skin.

Precautions To Take

Thus, the main precautions spray tanners need to take is to make sure that DHA spray is not inhaled during application, and that no cuts or sores are present. Some experts even suggest wearing a breathing mask and eye protection during spray tan.

It’s important to note that a spray tan also does not provide protection against the sun as does a proper sun-screen lotion.

In general, however, millions of people get spray tans every day and most don’t wear masks or eye covers. After decades of experience, only a tiny amount of cases show that health problems resulted, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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