Beware: the darker side of spray tanning


By Drew Ge, Guest Columnist

With colder weather just around the corner, one would expect the general public to look a little paler; sometimes, the snow and ice make it harder to get that good vitamin D. Turns out, though, you don’t really need sunlight these days to get that perfect golden tan. You can get it in a can year-round.

Walking into your nearest pharmacy, you might discover aisles upon aisles of tanning options, varying from lotions to sprays to foams. Driving in your local shopping centers, you’ll find that there are parlors dedicated to the art of artificial browning; but can a man-made melanin booster really do the same for you as some time under the sun?

The short answer is no. Countless studies show the inevitable damage that results from indoor tanning. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit global organization devoted to educating the public about skin cancer, those who have stepped into a tanning bed even just once develop a 75% increased risk of developing life-threatening melanoma before the age of 35. Think about it; you’re blasting your skin with concentrated UVA rays, the things in sunlight that literally give you cancer. UVB rays are the ones that provide vitamin D, and unfortunately, those are exclusive to the sun. By tanning, you’re taking an obscene number of risks, including but not limited to potential skin cancer, early aging and a countless stream of Cheeto jokes.

Before you say “ok boomer” and go back to rubbing Sephora self-tanner on your face, just know that these new lotions and sprays could be just as risky. The main active ingredient is DHA (dihydroxyacetone), which was discovered accidentally in the 1960s when a medicine containing it was found to stain skin brown. While DHA is approved for external use, it has been untested in regards to inhalation or application to mucous membranes, including most of the facial area. In fact, there are a lot of tanners and bronzers that are untested; there aren’t any FDA regulations in regard to these types of cosmetics and many of these products are so new to the market that we just don’t know what the effects will be in the future.

If the statistics haven’t been enough to convince you to stop abusing your skin, then hopefully this will: it straight up doesn’t look good. It’s already strange enough to see that iconic borderline-orange skin tone during the holiday season; having your hands be a completely different shade only makes things worse. In the Victorian era, tans meant “poor people.” In the 21st century, spray tans mean “poor judgment.”