Since the increase in popularity of spray tanners in the 90’s, it’s easier for people to get a great tan without the risk of skin cancer due to the harmful UV rays of the sun. And, after proving that tanning beds are as equally harmful as sun tanning, people have relied on spray tanning and self-tanners now more than ever.
However, there are still curious minds out there who would rather be safe than sorry, and would like to know whether spray tanning is truly safe. Who could blame them, though? We once thought that soaking under the sun for hours was healthy, as it provides Vitamin D. And, we also believed that tanning beds are a much safer alternative to it.
So now, the question tanning enthusiasts ask is whether spray tanning is safe or not.
Is DHA in Spray Tans Safe?
Fast Answer: DHA is generally considered safe and is FDA-approved for topical use.
Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is the main active ingredient found in every sunless tanners on the market. This substance allows the darkening of the skin pigmentation, as it interacts with the amino acids on dead skin cells.
There are several speculations and uncharted human studies on this matter. Dermatologists and experts have diverging opinions regarding DHA and spray tanning. Half of the industry believe that DHA is effective and safe to put into the skin. The other half have reservations, as the substance is believed to pose health risks.
There is also speculation that DHA does not just stay on the epidermis and dermis layers of the skin. It is believed that 11 percent of the substance applied is absorbed deeper than the two topmost skin layers and into the live cells.
Another concern of researchers is other spray tan formulas contain chemicals that weaken the skin’s surface to develop the tan faster than usual. With this, there’s a possibility that the product would be absorbed in the bloodstream instead of just staying on the top layers of the skin.
While DHA is FDA-approved to be externally used in tanning solutions, this is because it only requires low-level DHA in the formula. However, when one intakes high-level DHA, it becomes hazardous, as it has the possibility to increase the free radical formation and cause cell damage and cancer.
As for spray tan application, the FDA advises people to cover their lips, nose, and eyes for safety measures.
Do Spray Tans Cause Cancer?
Fast Answer: We don’t know.
Perhaps the most important question and number one worry of tanning enthusiasts is the risk of getting cancer out of their tanning methods. As natural tanning and tanning beds are harmful to the skin and cause cancer, the risk of getting it through spray tanning is a valid concern.
There is a study conducted using mice that found DHA to be mutagenic to some bacteria and mouse cells. This means that DHA is able to damage and mutate DNA, and can lead to cancer and birth defects. However, there is no 100 percent assurance that this result is applicable to humans, as no human study has been done as of writing.
We do know that exposure to UVA and UVB rays can, for a fact, lead to sunburns and skin cancer. Because of this, it’s assumed that spray tans are a ‘safer’ alternative to achieve the tan you’re looking for.
Can Spray Tan Damage your Lungs?
Fast Answer: Inhalation of spray tanner could lead to medical issues.
Some concerns have been posed about how safe spray tans are for the lungs. After all, the product is distributed through a mist form that can be easily inhaled. Inhaling some small amount of the spray tan itself is nearly unavoidable.
The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology published an article reviewing common tanning methods. In regards to spray tanning, they expressed the possible concerns of DHA.
Some physicians have expressed concern that chronic exposure to spray tans may increase the risk of pulmonary disease, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cancer.”The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology
Inhaled DHA enters the body and travels directly to the lungs. Here, it can be more easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Studies have yet to be done to learn the extent of the complications DHA could cause to the lungs and the rest of the body.
Are Spray Tans Safe For Asthma Patients?
Fast Answer: Unless they can safely wear a mask, it is generally recommended that asthma patients do not get spray tans.
Many professional spray tan training courses advise against spraying a client with asthma. When spray tanning a client’s face, the client may need to hold their breath. This could be more challenging for someone with asthma. The spray tan mist could make it more difficult for them to breath. It could also increase the risk of having an asthma attack.
If you or a client have asthma and still want to try spray tanning, a protective mask should be worn over the nose and mouth.
Are Spray Tans Safe During Pregnancy?
Fast Answer: It is generally considered safe after the first trimester.
Women who are pregnant should be particularly cautious in which beauty and tanning treatments they use while pregnant. That’s why many are curious if its safe to spray tan while pregnant.
Most tanning professionals agree pregnant women should only consider having a spray tan after the first 12 weeks. It should be noted that DHA inhalation is still a likely possibility.
If you have concerns, we recommend skipping the spray tan and opt for a gradual self-tanning lotion you can apply manually.
What are the Side Effects of Spray Tanning?
While there are no human studies on the risks of spray tanning, there are side effects that are reported by spray tan users. Many of these side effects depend on the individual and the application process.
Some possible side effects of spray tanning are:
- Mild coughing
- Eye Irritation
- Adverse skin reaction
Spray tans are not recommended for people who commonly experience difficulty breathing, standing for extended periods of time, or have very sensitive skin.
How to Have a Safe Spray Tan Session
The results of ingesting or inhaling DHA is still unknown. Since there are still no human studies on its effect on the internal organs and mucous membranes, it’s best to protect yourself appropriately when getting a spray tan. Wearing protective items during the spray tanning process to cover parts of your body where the mist might permeate is suggested.
These parts are:
- Pubic area
Make sure you follow the directions of your spray tan technician to ensure you have the best experience possible.
To Spray Tan or Not to Spray Tan
While there are speculations and worries regarding the safety of spray tanning, it’s important to remember that they’re simply hypotheses. There are no sure and absolute findings regarding whether or not spray tanning is safe for humans.
It’s also good to note that spray tanning products have stood the test of time and have been used since the 90’s. Since then, there have been no reports of terrible effects thus far. So, it’s sensible to infer that spray tanning is generally safe.
Stay safe during your spray tan by listening to your spray tan technician. After all, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.