How Safe Is Spray Tanning?
One of my favorite discoveries while researching the book was finding out that the active ingredient in tanning lotion isn’t actually all that bad. Total shocker! The other ingredients in there, though? Take a guess. Here’s a great post from our friends at Well&Good who went on an ingredient hunt to find out what’s really in spray tans. Enjoy, and let us know in the comments: Did you ever get your Jersey Shore on? (I did it once to pretty disastrous results, but I’m a big fan of clean tanning creams.)
Spray tanning—a temporary bronzing service offered at salons and spas—owes its success to the finding that ultraviolet rays cause not just a summery glow, but serious skin cancer.
Not surprisingly, many spas and salons market them as a safer alternative to sunning (or tanning beds). But then these spas don’t provide a list of ingredients for what’s in a spray tan. So how do you know what your skin is soaking up?
We set out to determine what magic potion could turn people varying shades of bronze (or occasionally orange-ish), and it was more difficult than we imagined. Here’s what we were able to learn.
What we know
Nearly every product contains Dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, a carbohydrate that can be derived from glycerin or plant sources such as sugar cane or beets. DHA reacts with the amino acids in the surface layer of the skin, and is generally safe for external use.
The key word here is “external.” Most spray tans coat your face with the formula, and the FDA actually warns against inhaling DHA, saying it should not touch the lips or any area around the eyes, including eyebrows or eyelids.
What we don’t know
So what else in a typical spray-tan cocktail? Who knows? “Salon products are exempt from labeling,” explains Stacy Malkan, author of Not Just a Pretty Face. “This makes no sense, since salon products are typically more potent than at-home versions.”
When we asked a handful of spas and salons for a list of ingredients in their spray tan, most weren’t able to provide it. That’s partly because many salons use mass-produced formulas, and may not know—or ask—what’s actually in them, says Susie Hatton, the founder of Chocolate Sun, a California-based company that uses a 100 percent natural (and mostly organic) formula and is offered at the Mandarin Oriental Spa in New York.
After leaving two unreturned messages atPortofino’s corporate offices (the Starbucks of tanning), a receptionist finally answered on the third try. “We don’t manufacture it—it’s not our formula, ”she said. She took a message, but no one got back to me. (Not surprising for a company that calls the link between UV exposure and melanoma a myth on their website, I guess.)