Society’s love-hate relationship with chemicals continues. Now we’re hearing media blasts about the questionable safety of the spray tanning products used by tanning salons. ABC News recently brought the scrutiny of DHA (dihydroxyacetone) into the public eye. This is the active bronzing ingredient in spray tanning products. Here’s the low down that spray tanning salons seem to keep on the down low:
DHA (the bronzing agent) vs. DHA (a food-grade additive)
Part of the confusion about the safety of spray tanning at tanning salons stems from the fact that DHA is an abbreviation for two completely different ingredients.
DHA (dihydronyacetone) the skin-staining chemical, should not be confused with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) an essential fatty acid that’s often added to infant formula. Making matters more confusing is the fact that the “tanning” DHA comes from a colorless sugar that stains dead skin cells brown. This sugar is NOT food-grade, contrary to what some tanning salons state.
Are tanning salons being intentionally deceptive? Perhaps they are simply misinformed since some manufacturers of the formula used have mislabeled them as “food-grade” DHA products—something they’ve promised to correct.
Regardless of their intentions, the truth is that the form of DHA used for spray tanning:
- Is potentially hazardous when it enters the bloodstream
- Can more easily enter the bloodstream when inhaled than when applied in lotion form
- Is shown to cause potential gene mutations
- Has cancer-causing potential
So what are your alternatives?
GOOD: SELF-TANNING LOTIONS are safer than sprays since they can’t be inhaled. But they are still somewhat risky since your skin can absorb the DHA in lotions. Prolonged use increases your risk. So it might be safest to save this sunless tanning strategy for vacations or special occasions. Look for self tanners with broad-spectrum sunscreen or wait 3 hours for the self tanner to absorb before applying sunscreen.
BETTER: BRONZERS don’t contain DHA, yet must be applied daily since they wash off. Some brands claim that they’ll hold up through a quick swim. Check the labels to see which products might last longer. Use your sunscreen UNDER the bronzer before spending time in the sun.
BEST: “GO WITH YOUR OWN GLOW!” says The Skin Cancer Foundation. According to many beauty experts, pale is the new skin du jour. (Perhaps we can thank the vampire craze and the ever-fair Kristen Stewart.) Beauty blogs point to “pale” as the latest runway trend adopted by fair-skinned celebrities like Nicole Kidman, Taylor Swift, Kate Winslet, Catherine Zeta Jones. So now we can think of pale as a fashion statement!
Consider skin brighteners, Fraxel Laser Skin Resurfacing, or IPL with chemical peels if you are experiencing signs of sun damage such as hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles or textural skin changes.
Read/see the full ABC News story on DHA.
Follow our blogger’s series on Sun Damage Recovery here.
Learn more about The Skin Cancer Foundation’s “Go With Your Own Glow” campaign here.
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