Legend has it that French fashion icon Coco Chanel started the tanning trend in the 1920s when she apparently stayed out in the sun too long while cruising on a yacht from Paris to Cannes and got a deep bronze look.
Because of the dangers associated with too much sun exposure, a variety of so-called “safe” tanning products were introduced over the years, like self tanners, lotions, creams and powders.
Spray tanning is one of the most popular sunless tanning methods available. Sunless tanning sprays are available at high-end salons and spas for anywhere from $25 to $100. You can also buy a tanning spray machine so you can tan yourself at home. Using a tanning spray gives you a realistic-looking tan, provides good body coverage and typically lasts five to seven days.
Sounds like a good deal? Read on because there’s a catch.
What’s In That Tanning Spray?
Tanning sprays contain a color additive called dihydroxyacetone, also referred to as DHA (but not to be confused with the healthy omega-3 fat DHA). Sunless tanning products may contain anywhere between 1 to 15 percent DHA; the higher the DHA level, the darker the tan produced.
Manufacturers of sunless tan products claim that DHA is a simple carbohydrate sugar solution but a toxicologist who investigated the harmful effects of tanning beds disagrees. Even the FDA has not approved the use of DHA in spray tan booths.
The FDA previously approved the use of DHA as an ingredient in tanning products but strictly for topical application only. Spray tanning directly exposes you to DHA because you can inhale it and it will be applied to your face, near the eyes, nose and lip area.
The dangers of DHA ingestion are largely unknown. The FDA has recommended for people to use protective eyewear, plug their nose and cover their lips whenever using spray tans but since there is no law regulating tanning salons, the establishments offering spray tanning are not obliged to mention the recommendations or the potential risks.
Consumers have reported rashes, coughing, dizziness and fainting to the FDA as some of the adverse reactions after spray tanning.
However, DHA is just one of the concerns because tanning sprays may contain as many as 45 different chemicals, including arsenic, lead and mercury. If you’re pregnant, you should definitely stay away from tanning sprays.
What’s Dr. Mercola’s advice? Avoid spray tanning entirely and use a new product such as 100% Herbal Instant Tan which doesn't use any chemicals or preservatives, only herbal ingredients..
The Number One Reason Why Sunless Tanning Is Harmful
You can argue that the dangers of spray tanning have not yet been conclusively proven but the health risks of DHA and other toxic chemicals are not the main reason why you should forget about tanning sprays and all forms of artificial tanning.
Artificial tanning gives you the illusion of good health, making you believe that you’ve had significant sun exposure, when in reality (and you know it), you’ve received ZERO health benefits.