Spray Tans: How Healthy Are They Really?

embedPhoto: Courtesy of Free People.
For as long as it's been around, the spray tan has been championed as the healthier way to nab a glow without sitting out in the sun. This makes sense — there are no UVA or UVB rays involved, so skin cancer is basically off the table. But, could there be something more sinister lurking in the nozzles that hose us down and leave us bronzed? We chatted with Stacie Norvell, who founded the organic sunless-tanning line Norvell, about how healthy these tanners actually are.
“Spray tanning is truly a great alternative in achieving a healthy glow without the risk of overexposure to UV rays,” she says. Since there is none of that exposure to the sun, this bronzing method cuts out the risk of premature aging and cancer, among other issues.
Considering how many ingredients are used to create the concoction misted onto our skin, though, there’s got to be something shady in there, right? Norvell was quick to ease our fears. “The active ingredient in spray-tanning solution and tanning lotions is dihydroxyacetone, or DHA,” she says. “It’s been tested by the FDA and has been proven to be non-harmful.” DHA exists in tanning lotions at a concentration of up to 10%, and spray cabins can contain an amount somewhere between 8 and 14%. A series of studies on DHA’s effects showed exposure to DHA at those concentrations had no negative effects.
“DHA is actually a sugar,” explains Norvell. “It sounds totally awful and chemical-y, but it’s harvested from sugar cane and sugar beets.” If using organic ingredients is important to you, there are actually brands, like Norvell, that offer products containing DHA derived from organic sugar as well.
While the FDA has found that DHA isn’t dangerous, it does suggest precautionary steps to protect your mucus membranes from coming into direct contact with the product. That means when you hop into the spray chamber, you may want to keep your skivvies on as well as cover your eyes with disposable shields. “It’s the same logic that goes along with anything that involves direct exposure to your mucus membranes,” Norvell explains. “If I was moving grass for a living and did that regularly, I’d likely wear a mask. It’s not something that has to be done — just an added layer of protection if you feel you need it.”
It's official: You can get glowy in a healthy way. Spray on, ladies.

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