Chemical in Spray-On Tans May Cause Genetic Damage: Report

Although the active ingredient contained in many tanning sprays could pose a serious health risk and potentially result in genetic damage, salons commonly claim that the products are safe and fail to provide protective gear for customers.

According to an investigative report by ABC News, beauty salons regularly provide erroneous information to customers and fail to provide protective gear when using tanning sprays, despite warnings from the FDA that dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is not safe for inhalation or consumption.

DHA was originally approved as the main ingredient in tanning lotions in the 1970s. Known for turning people’s skin orange and often referred to as “fake ‘n’ bake,” the chemical was later adapted for use in spray-on tan products, which give a more even and realistic look of tanned skin. However, the FDA only approved DHA for lotion, not sprays.

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In lotion form, it was very difficult for the chemical to find a way into the bloodstream. However, in spray form, it can easily enter the lungs when it is inhaled or get into the eyes, both of which are vectors to the blood. From there, medical experts say there is growing concern that DHA could cause genetic damage.

ABC News obtained government reports on DHA, using the Freedom of Information Act, and then provided those reports to a panel of medical experts. Concerns have been expressed over clinical reports that show DHA damaging the DNA chain, which can lead to cancer. However, no testing has been conducted on human subjects.

Despite the safety concerns and prior FDA’s warning that it should not be inhaled or consumed, salons throughout the New York area repeatedly told undercover reporters that the sprays were safe and almost never offered protective gear. Even those that had protective gear told the reporters that it was not needed, indicating that all they needed to do was hold their breath and close their eyes. One worker went so far as to say DHA could be eaten and inhaled by pregnant women.

The FDA warns consumers that they should request eye and nose protection whenever using the spray in a salon tanning booth.

As a result of the investigation, the International Smart Tan Network has announced that it will launch a new re-education campaign to address the shortcomings in salons nationwide.


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