Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dangerous Spray Tans?

It's that time of year again! We all want that beautiful glowing tan! A fake tan is safer than a real tan. But, spray tanning has been in the news lately. I have never gotten a spray tan at  a tanning studio. I'm more of a DIY tan girl. As it turns out, the ingredient, Dihydroxyacetone abbreviated as DHA, used in spray tanning products was approved back in 1977 for external use only in a cream or lotion form. It was not meant to be sprayed! It should not get into the body by breathing it in or getting it on and in mucous membranes including the eyes, nose or lips. Studies done on non-human cells show that DHA can cause DNA changes and mutations that could lead to cancer or possible birth defects.

Here is an excerpt from the FDA product information page for sunless tanners:

As noted above, the use of DHA in "tanning" booths as an all-over spray has not been approved by the FDA, since safety data to support this use has not been submitted to the Agency for review and evaluation, When using DHA-containing products as an all-over spray or mist in a commercial spray "tanning" booth, it may be difficult to avoid exposure in a manner for which DHA is not approved, including the area of the eyes, lips, or mucous membrane, or even internally.

Consequently, FDA advises asking the following questions when considering commercial facilities where DHA is applied by spraying or misting:
  • Are consumers protected from exposure in the entire area of the eyes, in addition to the eyes themselves?
  • Are consumers protected from exposure on the lips and all parts of the body covered by mucous membrane?
  • Are consumers protected from internal exposure caused by inhaling or ingesting the product?
If the answer to any of these questions is "no," the consumer is not protected from the unapproved use of this color additive. Consumers should request measures to protect their eyes and mucous membranes and prevent inhalation.

What about sunless tanning products sold in retail stores, such as creams and lotions?

DHA is approved for external application to the human body, which is the way these products are intended to be used. Consumers can easily avoid inhaling them or applying them to the area of the eye or mucous membrane.
Read more:

What all this means is when you get a spray tan, you need to wear:
Protective Undergarments
Nose filters
Lip Balm
Protective Eyewear

There is another concern regarding DHA. It was always thought that DHA interacted and stayed in the outer dead cell layers of the skin only. Tests have shown that DHA was absorbed by living layers of the skin. The FDA wrote a follow-up paper regarding DHA absorption by the skin, concluding that "probably" only 0.5 percent of each application of DHA becomes "systemically available" which means it would be distributed throughout the body by the bloodstream.  The FDA concluded that this is low percentage meaning a low health risk and no further testing was needed. It seems that more testing is in order! On humans!

A fake tan is still safer than a real tan! Be sure to follow the protective recommendations when getting a spray tan. I do feel that tanning creams are the safer way to go. But, I now question whether a pregnant woman should use any kind of tanning product containing DHA due to the fact that a small amount is absorbed into the bloodstream. Also, maybe it's not such a good idea to be tan like Snooki and Kim Kardashian year around! 

If you want to read more, here is a link to the ABC new article.

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