We all know by now that there is a direct link between the suns rays on our skin and Melanoma one of the most common forms of Cancer. For this reason alone, many people choose to use fake tans rather than spending long hours topping up in the sunlight. Unfortunately, a glowing suntan has become symbolic of beauty and health in western ideology. What is considered by society to be beautiful is fickle. Only 100 years ago it was fashionable to have pale skin as this was an indication of wealth. It predominantly symbolized that you did not have to work in the fields for a living. These days the suntan is indicative of those who can afford to jet off to sunny climates, or who do not have to work long hours in an office. Therefore, tanned skin is coveted and until we change the rules, its likely well want that sun-kissed look. Knowing what we now know about the sun, we also want to be safe. Is fake tan, therefore, a healthy and harmless option?
One Troublesome Ingredient: DHA
The main area of concern for scientists who are investigating the possible affects of fake tans is a chemical called DHA or Dihydroxyacetone. Before you begin to panic there is some good news. Firstly, companies who produce fake tan have lowered the DHA concentrations so they are not as high as they previously were. Some manufacturers are now advertising DHA free tanning kits. Secondly, scientists seem to agree that DHA only has the potential to be harmful if it is inhaled. This means steps can be taken to prevent the inhalation of this chemical during the application process.
How is DHA Harmful?
During experiments on live animal skin cells, scientists discovered that, when inhaled, DHA can cause damage to the DNA that is specifically linked to the development of Cancer. If it can have this affect in animals, it is possible it can have this affect in humans. In humans, once the chemical is inhaled, it can be absorbed by the lungs and passed into the blood stream. Scientists believe this can precipitate inflammations in the body such as Asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It could also, as in animals, create genetic alterations in those with a predisposition to diseases such as Lung, Colon or Breast Cancer.
Should I Not Use Fake Tan?
Many fake tans now claim to be DHA free so you may want to source the booths or home products that have this advertised. Aside from that, as the main risk seems to be from inhalation, it is important to minimize the chances of breathing the chemical in. Fortunately, home tanning kits are easily applied these days and most are engineered to leave you with a natural glow, rather than the streaky, orange disaster of yester year. Ensure during application that you are in a room that has good ventilation. Wearing a nose clip, or dust mask, is also advisable.
Tanning booths may carry greater risk. The latest generation of booths, (those where you face in one direction with your hands in the air in order to be sprayed) are possibly the most risky. You are potentially exposed to inhalation as you are sprayed all over with the DHA-containing product and are in a confined area. The tanning salons should provide eye goggles and nose clips but many dont. Even when they are supplied, customers are often reluctant to use them. It is highly advisable to use these props to prevent inhaling DHA. If you dont want to use the props, then make sure you hold your breath.
Fake tans only last approximately five days so many people report using them almost weekly. Obviously the more you use these booths, or the more you are exposed to DHA, (for example if you are a staff member), the higher risk you may have to its harmful effects. Pregnant women are advised not to use fake tans at all, especially in the first trimester. This is as there is the potential for DHA to be inhaled and affect the developing organs of the fetus.
The Overall Conclusion
There is indisputable evidence that sunbathing can be harmful to the skin and is a leading cause of developing Skin Cancer. Spending long or frequent periods of time on a sunbed is a definite no if you want to minimize your chances of future skin damage. Fake tans seem to be relatively safe, although research is, as with so many modern day products, still being conducted. It is possible that fake tans are the safest option of a glorious glow. Just be careful, if using a product with the ingredient DHA, that you heed the advice and avoid inhalation.