DHA-Spray and Sunless "Tanning" Booths
Medical Author: Barbara K. Hecht,
Medical Editor: Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Tans continue to be popular, especially with people who
naturally have light colored skin. A rich, bronze-colored tan can not only be cosmetically
flattering, it can evoke a sun-filled vacation spent at the beach or, in winter,
on the ski slopes. But given the fact that exposure to the tanning rays of the
sun is accompanied by skin damage and an increased risk of skin cancer, these
days many people are opting for "sunless" tans.
What is DHA?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the most effective sunless
tanning products contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as the active ingredient. DHA is
a colorless chemical (it is derived from glycerin) that interacts with the amino
acids in dead skin cells to produce a brown color change. Since these dead skin
cells are constantly being shed, the color change produced by DHA usually lasts
about five to seven days.
DHA is not absorbed through the skin into the body and it
has no known toxicity. DHA was first discovered by the Germans in the late
1920's when DHA spilled on the skin produced a brown color. DHA has been listed
with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1973, and has been used in cosmetic
preparations for almost 30 years.
What is a DHA-spray "tanning" booth?
In commercial spray "tanning" booths, consumers receive an
application of DHA in the form of a mist or spray. Is it safe to be sprayed with
a product containing DHA? There is no evidence to suggest that DHA is not safe.
The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C) authorizes the regulation of color
additives, including their uses and restrictions. DHA is listed in these
regulations as a color additive for use in imparting color to the human body.
Are there any restrictions about the use of DHA?
Yes, the use
of DHA in cosmetics, including sunless "tanning" products, is restricted to
EXTERNAL application only. According to the Code of
Federal Regulations, "externally applied" cosmetics are those
"applied only to external parts of the body and not to the lips or any body
surface covered by mucous membrane. In addition, no color additive may be used
in cosmetics intended for use in the area of the eye unless the color additive
is permitted specifically for such use.
Are there any concerns about DHA spray "tanning" booths?
using DHA-containing products as an all-over spray or mist in a commercial spray
"tanning" booth, it may be difficult to control DHA
exposure. The FDA states that commercial facilities should specifically protect
clients from DHA exposure to the eyes, lips and mucous membranes as well as
preventing the inhalation or ingestion of products containing DHA. We would
think that these recommendations should apply to personnel working in these
spray "tanning" booths as well as their clients.
Clients should be aware they are in for repeat sessions being sprayed with DHA if they wish to maintain their "tan" for more than a few days. There are also certain skin conditions which may result in an uneven, unattractive "tan." These conditions include skin that has been previously damaged by the sun, "older" skin, mottled or freckled skin and scars. Care should also be taken to prevent DHA coloration of the hair and nails.
Remember, too, that a sunless "tan" is not really a suntan and
affords no protection whatsoever against the skin damage the
sun may cause.
Last Editorial Review: 8/7/2003