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Spray Tanning Basics

        Health | Sun Care

Professional Spray Tans: Step Right In
Professional spray tans usually offer the most even look, although oddly shaped bathing suit cutouts may later prove problematic.
Professional spray tans usually offer the most even look, although oddly shaped bathing suit cutouts may later prove problematic.
Steve Finn/Getty Images

If you want a professional spray tan, you probably won't have to look far; there are tanning businesses -- both chains and independents -- in most communities. They buy their spray-tanning equipment from a few major manufacturers.

The best-known brands are VersaSpa and Mystic Tan. People in the business and customers alike will argue over which is better. Both brands tout the roominess and ventilation of various styles of their machines. MagicTan, the maker of VersaSpa, and Mystic Tan merged in the spring of 2009 but continued to offer both brand names [source: PR Newswire]. The machines "tan" customers all over in a matter of minutes by spraying them with a mist containing the DHA solution.

Some businesses also offer air-brush spray tanning. An attendant, using a high-pressure gun not unlike those used to paint cars, applies the tanning solution. The spray can be directed to cover customers evenly, or it's possible to spray on custom "muscles" like "perfect six-pack abs."

Spray tanning is growing in popularity with business owners because it can offer higher profits. A single session in a UV bed may cost as little as $5 or $7, and if the customer buys a package, each session costs less. Depending on the region, spray-tanning single sessions run anywhere from $20 to $45, and they use only a couple of dollars worth of solution. Air-brushing costs even more. Packages are also available that include other services such as moisturizing, for a higher price.

The obvious advantages to being sprayed professionally are that you're more likely to get an even covering and you don't have to clean up a mess at home.

Sound too good to be true? There is a major potential disadvantage: The FDA has not approved the use of DHA as an all-over spray in tanning booths [source: U.S. FDA]. DHA is approved for external application only. It is not supposed to be inhaled or swallowed, and it's not approved for use on the eyes, lips or any mucous membranes. This doesn't mean that the mist is poison; it means that testing has not established what effects it has other than on the skin. A major question is how well a commercial spray-tanning operation protects you against breathing the mist or getting it in your eyes or mouth.

The FDA has approved the use of do-it-yourself spray tanning products, if, of course, people follow the directions [source: U.S. FDA]

Want to try spray tanning at home? Read on.