The Hidden Dangers of Spray Tanning

Posted on February 6th, 2009 by author  |  15 Comments »

Tanning has long been associated with beauty and health. Getting a tan is not just a fashion statement for many; it has become a lifestyle.

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.

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.

Your body naturally makes vitamin D when sunlight strikes your exposed skin. You’re making a big mistake if you go for sunless tanning because you will be missing out of the amazing benefits of sun exposure.

You can get that healthy glowing look without sacrificing your sun exposure. Click here for Dr. Mercola’s safe tanning guidelines.

You can also visit for more information on the benefits of vitamin D and sun exposure.

Your outer beauty is a reflection of the true state of your health so always be careful with the choices that you make.

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Responses to “The Hidden Dangers of Spray Tanning”

  1. Janice says on :

    good thing I haven’t experienced all of these symptoms after I was sunless tanning dallas, I’m scared of sun’s UV rays and now after reading your post you made me also aware of spray tanning.. what’s the best way to get tanned.

  2. jediballer says on :

    Hi Janice. Dr. Mercola has numerous articles on tanning, sun exposure and vitamin D. You can visit his website, , to create a free account and browse the articles.

  3. Carol says on :

    My husband made me look up spray tanning for he fears it my hurt my health. I was furious to say the least. Six months ago I had emergency open heart to remove fourteen and half inches of clots from my chest area. I am taking coumadin. a blood thinner and I still don’t have my strength or stamina.
    So I guess my husband was right again. I’ll cancel the appointment with regrets from looking good at my party but secure to know I will be healthy, which is my main goal.

  4. Marie says on :

    Was your surgery due to exposer to spray tanning?

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