The New Pros and Cons of Spray Tanning

Is spray tanning safe? We discuss the dangers of spray tans and whether or not they cause cancer.
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Is spray tanning safe? We discuss the dangers of spray tans and whether or not they cause cancer.
Tan girl wearing a bikini

During the summer, many of us covet the Hollywood glow associated with a dark tan. And lots of girls are turning to spray tanning to avoid the negative effects of baking in the sun, one of those being an increased risk of skin cancer.

But just this week, news outlets began reporting that spray tanning may cause cancer as well! So what's a girl to do? To help, I've listed the pros and cons of spray tanning if you are thinking about getting that beach glow.

The Positives of a Spray Tan

There are many benefits to getting a spray tan. A huge one, like I mentioned above, is decreasing the risk of skin cancer associated with traditional tanning. This assumes, of course, that you're applying broad-spectrum sunscreen before you step foot outside and taking refuge in the shade if necessary. I apply a basic SPF 15 moisturizer when I'm spending the day indoors and I slather on the SPF 55+ when I know I will be spending time outside.

The other positive to spray tans is that they are instant. No need for baking outside in the sun for hours on end or waiting for your sticky self-tanning lotion to dry. As well, you can adjust how dark you want to go by spray tanning more or less frequently.

Finally, another important positive of spray tanning (or regular sunless tanning) as opposed to baking for real is that your skin retains its youthful appearance for much longer. No one wants to look like a piece of dried leather when they are fifty, so, like we always say, stop while you are ahead!

The Negatives of a Spray Tan

After going through the positives of spray tanning, you might say that there are probably no negatives to be found! Well, like with all things, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Like we mentioned above, new research has just been released stating that spray tanning may actually increase your risk of cancer. DHA, dihdroxyacetone, is the active ingredient in spray tanners and medical experts have found that, if introduced into the bloodstream (which can happen if it is inhaled), it has the "potential to cause genetic alternations and DNA damage."

While all self tanners use DHA, the problem with the spray variety is that when you are getting sprayed, it's common to inadvertently inhale some DHA. (I'm sure many people try to hold their breath when getting spray tanned, but eventually you have to breathe!) Inhalation can allow DHA to enter the bloodstream and potentially cause the negative health effects listed above.

To be fair, the ten current studies that the article reviewed had not involved testing on human subjects, so this claim may be up for debate in some areas. However, it should be enough to make you stop and think before stepping in that booth.

So... is Spray Tanning Good or Bad?

In my opinion, spray tanning is fine in small doses and if you take the correct precautions. Find out if the salon has protective goggles, nose plugs and protective mouth gear available so you inhale as little DHA as possible! Many salons do not have these options but hopefully that will start to change soon.

Also, if you love the look of a fake tan but don't want to worry about inhalation, you can switch to self-tanning lotions or gels that don't involve an aerosol spray. We've talked about these on CF before in our ultimate guide to the best self tanners, and our guide to looking like a beach babe. These options are a little more time-intensive than spray tans, but are cheaper per tan and won't cause you to inhale DHA.

No matter what you choose to do, make sure you protect yourself and make sure you're fully informed of the risks to avoid any unforeseen consequences down the road.

What do you think?

Do you like spray tanning? What do you think about tanning in general? Let me know in the comments!