If you’ve heard the numerous warnings from dermatologists, hopefully you’ve already decided to avoid exposure to harmful UV rays from the sun and tanning beds.
But are spray-on tans and tanning creams safer? According to Health Canada, yes’when used and applied properly. But a panel of medical experts interviewed by ABC have now questioned the safety of these products, suggesting that the active chemical in spray-on tans, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), has the potential to cause genetic alterations and DNA damage when it comes into contact with your bloodstream.
"These compounds in some cells could actually promote the development of cancers or malignancies," Dr. Rey Panettieri, a toxicologist and lung specialist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine told ABC, "and if that’s the case then we need to be wary of them."
In a report released to ABC News, FDA scientists said that DHA does not stop at the outer dead layers of skin. In fact, they concluded that much of the DHA applied to skin actually ended up in the living layers of skin. "This leaves about 11 percent of the applied DHA dose absorbed remaining in the [living] epidermis and dermis."
According to Health Canada, DHA can be used on the outermost layer of the skin, but should not be applied to any of the body’s mucous membranes (nostrils, mouth, lips, eyelids, ears and genital areas). But when ABC did an undercover study, they found that many spray tanning salon in the U.S. did not provide the protective gear that would prevent the mucous membranes from absorbing DHA.
Hopefully, the spray-tanning salons in Canada do, but given that the most common ingredient used in all self-tanners is DHA, it’s important to ask for the appropriate protection at spray-tanning salons, and to follow application instructions on self-tanning products carefully.
-Katharine Watts, Associate Web Editor