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Summer’s nearly here! Time to work on getting that perfect tan. But how? The sun, tanning beds, and now tanning sprays have all been found to pose a serious threat to your health.

Most recently, the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies started studying the effects of tanning sprays, which contain active ingredient dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. The chemical, which turned skin orange but was approved for use in tanning lotions in 1977, is now said to “wreak havoc on human DNA,” according to ABC News, and to stimulate cancer growth if ingested. The FDA intends to look into the dangerous product further.

In the meantime, an ABC News investigation revealed that tanning booths across the country are not only unaware of DHA’s harmful effects, but they’re misinforming consumers. In fact, every tanning salon that ABC News visited told customers that spray tanning with or without protective gear is completely safe. Some employees were even quoted as saying “DHA is a food-grade product approved for ingestion by the FDA,” and used by the health supplement industry.

Worse, when relaying results of an American Academy of Dermatology study on 18 to 29-year-olds’ attitudes toward tanning, dermatologist Zoe Draelos told the NY Daily News that spray tanning is a “safe alternative to tanning by artificial or natural ultraviolet light.”

The tanning salons were potentially misled by tanning product manufacturer Norvell University. The company allegedly confused toxic DHA with omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic, which is abbreviated the same way. Norvell stated that it sent out nearly 16,000 notifications to its network of contacts to rectify the misunderstanding.

According to the FDA’s website, tanning sprays should not be applied without proper protective gear to avoid inhalation, ingestion, or exposure of the toxic chemical to the bloodstream. Serious health risks such as worsening asthma, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are all likely consequences if these directions aren’t.

So before you get ready for your next spray tan appointment, be sure to follow these recommendations from the FDA to ensure your safety:

  • wear protective undergarments;
  • use a nose filter;
  • apply lip balm; and
  • wear protective eyewear.


  1. Gravatar for Pale Guy

    Well I'll just stay pale, then. You would think sprays coil be safe--aren't carrots orange?--but here we use dangerous chemicals and cross our fingers.

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