Experts say sunless tanning has risks, complications

With the fall semester starting back and cooler weather approaching, students begin using different methods of tanning, such as tanning beds and spray tans.

In search of a summer glow, some students may turn to tanning beds, spray tans, and even tanning pills, officials said.

While the risks of excessive sun exposure and tanning beds are evident, new questions have been raised about the safety of spray tans and tanning pills.

Because of the excessive UV radiation and increased risk of skin cancer from tanning beds, some people, like UNA freshman Alyssa Cabler, have started to lean more towards spray tans to achieve their desired look.

“I don’t like tanning beds, so I use spray tans,” Cabler said. “I don’t see a risk.”

According to the Federal Food and Drug Administration, the standards for sunless tanners prohibit the use of spray tans around the eyes, nose and lips.     

The main chemical used in spray tans, DHA, hasn’t been approved by the FDA since no safety data on its use has been submitted for study.

The FDA advises users of spray tans to use caution when entering the tanning booth. It also urges users to use proper protection against unsafe inhalation or absorption of DHA internally.

With the new safety questions surrounding sunless tanners, there comes the debate of whether or not to avoid the tanning booth.

Some people, like UNA junior Brianna Clark, don’t believe there is a problem with tanning booths.

“Good grief, if you want to tan—tan. You only live once.” Clark said.

For some, however, the concern isn’t so much for safety as it is for excessive use.     

“People take it to the extreme. But, they don’t care, they just want to look good.” said UNA senior Alec Lewis.

Sunless tanners don’t pose near as much risk as using a tanning bed or excessive exposure to the sun, said Dr. David Hollis of Killen Clinic in Killen, Ala.

Though the FDA hasn’t approved the use of DHA in sunless tanners, Hollis said, there isn’t a reason to panic.

“If any company is marketing a product, you are at their mercy,” he said, “There is probably a small amount of DHA absorbed through the skin, though not enough to be harmful.”

Hollis said that, while the FDA warns against DHA absorption, the bigger picture should be the spray tan base.

“Your skin is good at keeping water based or alcohol-based products. It’s not so much the DHA, it’s the carrier,” Hollis said.

The facts seem to indicate that, for safety, sunless tanners are probably the best off, officials said.

As with anything, officials said sunless tanners are generally safe in moderation and, with proper protection, are a better alternative to tanning beds, which are known to change DNA and kick-start cancer-causing cells in the body.