How Safe is Spray Tanning?

spray tan safety health photo
Henry Arden/Corbis

I remember when I first learned about spray tanning. I was thrilled. No longer would I need to worry about the rays outside because I could get that glowing tan in a bottle. I hate to admit how reckless I could be in my early twenties. With age I've learned to investigate the latest trend before diving in head first.

In truth I stopped spray tanning for purely cosmetic reasons. I caught a glimpse of the orange hued mess that I called a tan in a picture of myself. I looked more like a citrus fruit than the glowing specimen of beauty I thought the tan produced. I'm not much of a spray tanner anymore. Instead, I've taken to getting sun in a healthy manner and enjoying what nature has to offer. But is spray tanning safe? What causes your skin to change colors in the first place?


The Mayo Clinic reports that the main ingredient in most sunless tanning sprays and lotions is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA reacts with your top layer of skin which causes the darkened color. After this skin layer is sloughed off in about a week to ten days the tan wears off.

According to MedicineNet, DHA has been listed with the FDA since 1973 and has been used in cosmetics for over 30 years. That said, DHA is restricted to external use only. This means it shouldn't be ingested. If you go to spray tanning booths make sure you tightly close your eyes, mouth, and ears so that you don't ingest the stuff. Better yet, have a practitioner spray it on so it's a more controlled application. Or if you want to play it completely safe, do it yourself and choose one of these completely safe tanning lotions. Most importantly, sunless tanning sprays do not protect you from sun rays.

Like this? Follow my Twitter feed.

Follow me on Facebook.