Medical experts have advised wearing sunscreen outdoors and staying out of tanning beds altogether to reduce preventable skin damage and other health risks. But those still aiming to look like the Bronze Idol from the 19th century ballet La Bayadère may also want to hold off on even a sunless tanning approach. Evidence suggests that spray tanning may not be a safe alternative to ultraviolet exposure.
Today, ABC News reports that spray tans' active chemical, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), may damage DNA and cause genetic alterations. A literature review performed by six medical experts with expertise spanning dermatology, toxicology and pulmonary medicine has raised questions about the safety of DHA. The chemical was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1970s for external use; back then, it was tanning lotions, not sprays, that were ubiquitous.
Scientists worry that when sprayed without protecting body cavities and mucous membranes, the chemical could be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream - all falling outside of the approved use of DHA and possibly making the body vulnerable to its harmful effects.
From today's article:
[Rey Panettieri, MD], like all the experts ABC News consulted with, said more studies should be done. He emphasized the available scientific literature is limited. Still, he said, he has seen enough to say the warning signs of serious health concerns exist.
"These compounds in some cells could actually promote the development of cancers or malignancies," he said, "and if that's the case then we need to be wary of them."
The full investigative report is worth a read.