Achieving a perfect, healthy tan any time of year is easier than ever with spray tanning services offered by salons and spas. But while sunless tanning can be a healthier alternative for your skin than basking in the sun's ultraviolet rays, ingredients in spray tanning products may come with side effects of their own.
DHA May Not Be OK
Professional spray tanning products contain a carbohydrate called dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. This substance is derived from either glycerin or plant sources, and reacts with your skin’s amino acids to create a sunless glow. Though DHA is considered safe for external use, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has deemed this ingredient a potential health risk to your lungs when inhaled. Make sure a salon or spa attendant offers you a protective mask and applies the spray tan in a well-ventilated area.
We already know that DHA can be harmful when inhaled, so if you have asthma, spray tanning may not be your best option for a healthy, sunless glow. Even if you haven't had asthma, but still begin coughing or feel out of breath shortly after a spray-tanning session, opt for an alternative sunless tanner. Lotions or gels tend to be a safer bet for those with asthma or other lung problems.
Trigger for Allergies
DHA may not only be hazardous to your health when inhaled, but can also cause allergic reactions. The most common allergy to sunless tanning products is contact dermatitis, an itchy, red and sometimes painful skin rash. Before giving the go-ahead on a spray-tanning service, do a patch test on the inside of your wrist, especially if you've had a previous allergic reaction to self-tanning products, body treatments or cosmetics.
Breeding Ground for Free Radicals
According to a 2007 study by Gematria Test Lab researchers in Berlin, more than 180 percent additional free radicals formed during sun exposure on skin samples containing DHA compared with skin samples that didn't contain the sunless tanning substance. Because spray tanning products do not contain ingredients that offer UV protection, active DHA can cause increased damage to the skin when exposed to the sun. To ward off these harmful side effects, stay out of the sun for at least a day after applying a sunless tanner.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Sunless Tanners & Bronzers
- Chemical & Engineering News: What's That Stuff?
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Contact Dermatitis
- The Telegraph: Health Fears Raised Over Spray Tans
- U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: UV-Generated Free Radicals (FR) in Skin: Their Prevention by Sunscreens and Their Induction by Self-Tanning Agents
Natalie Lynn is an experienced digital content writer whose work has appeared in major online publications since 2009. Most notably, she has been a regular health, beauty and style contributor to SparkPeople.com, America's No. 1-ranked diet and fitness website.