Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Spray Tanning...Good or Bad?

Did you see the recent report by ABC News regarding the potential health risks of spray tanning?  Yep…you read right…SPRAY tanning.  If you haven’t seen it, please check it out here.

I’ve never been 100% convinced that spray tanning was completely safe.  The idea of applying a chemical coloring agent to one’s skin never seemed like a great idea.  I’m not a chemical-phobic as I understand that there are chemicals in everything, including lotions, cosmetics, cologne and sunscreen.  Still, sunscreens are classified as a drug in this country (but not Europe) and are under strict scrutiny for safety before approval.  Tanless lotions and sprays are considered cosmetics and are not required to follow the same strict guidelines.

I’ve  not been very vocal about supporting spray tans in that I believe the best way to change the public view on tanning is to promote one’s natural skin tones.  Faking a tan implies that a tanned look is still better than one’s skin tone.  We will never EVER beat this tanning business until we convince people that they’re more beautiful, naturally!  Whether it’s safe or not…tanning just isn’t natural. (Cue the responses from the “tanning is natural” coalition).

There is one additional negative aspect to this report, besides the potential health risks.  When I was at the NC State Legislature Building, we mentioned to several folks (elected and otherwise) that our mission to introduce a tanning ban for minors wouldn’t put the tanning salons out of business.  This is a necessary debating point in that elected officials do not want to be associated with voting for unemployment of any kind.  The flyers we handed out promoted spray tanning as a more “lucrative option.”  In fact, I wrote in my own blog that perhaps spray tanning could be subsidized in exchange for the shut-down of individual tanning beds.  Oops.  Now that spray tanning has the potential to be unhealthy, the anti-tanning lobby needs another fall-back.

One last thought about the report itself.  It was emphasized that “tanning technicians” were simply uninformed about the risks of spray tanning.  Many made false or uninformed claims that the DHA chemical could be inhaled or ingested without risk and suggested that no protective nose plugs were necessary.  Hmm…”tanning salon employees being uninformed”…does this sound familiar?  I can’t say the individual workers are sleazy, but the fact that the industry in general failed to properly train or enlighten its employees speaks volumes.  This report hopefully will start enlightening the general public that tanning of any sort is just not worth the money.  And it’s our job as people affected by melanoma to teach folks how to exist in natural sunlight safely.

And now the flip side.  I believe that spray tanning is still a safer alternative to UV tanning.  Throughout the report, the phrase “potential risk” was used and any conclusion was subjective at best.  So far, all such tests on DHA (the tanning kind, not the edible kind) have been performed on lab animals and not on humans.  Most likely, it’ll be found that the chemical does indeed have health risks.  But I won’t draw conclusions until a comparison study is performed between spray versus UV tanning.  (I bet that the UV tans will be found to be exponentially more dangerous).  I won’t promote spray tanning individually, but I still have a clear conscience about stated that it’s a safer alternative (in moderation only) over UV tanning. 

My greatest focus will be on no tanning at all…of any kind.  Embrace your natural self!

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