The "Healthier" Tanning Option?

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The "Healthier" Tanning Option?

By Cassandra Moen

Summer is in full bloom and magazine covers are flooded with gorgeous, tanned, sun-kissed beauties in skimpy bikinis. It is time to make our yearly rounds of final beach preparation. We all go on our “diets” and “cleanses” in order to achieve our final 10 lb. weight loss, buy a brand new bikini, a cute floppy hat and tote, and start our tanning package. With the pressure of the tanned, airbrushed, celebrity image eating away at our self esteem, the urge to alter our skin color is stronger than ever. The cancer causing aspect of the sunless tanning booths are well known, so some of us opt for the “healthier” option of spray tanning. However, is this option a viable, “healthier” option?

The allure of spray tanning is the convenience and the instant sun-kissed glow. We step into the booth, press a button, and in less than a minute we have an instant beach ready body. However, studies show that this immediate convenience may cause some long term health problems. Although spray tanning is not known to cause skin cancer in the short term, your skin and the rest of your organs are being exposed to a chemical know as dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA binds proteins in your skin and causes them to change to a bronze color that we desire. However, the FDA warns consumers to keep DHA external and avoid repeated exposure to it. Studies suggest that the absorption of this chemical into our skin causes mutations in the DNA found in the skin cells. These mutations can lead to cancer and other health issues. The FDA also warns against ingestion of the chemical. Repeated exposure to the lungs, eyes, lips, nose and other mucous membranes may possibly cause health risks such as asthma and lung cancer. Ingesting DHA allows free radicals to enter the blood stream. Free radicals in your blood stream can lead to mutated cells and DNA as well. This can possibly increase the chances of cancers of internal organs. Although the research of spray tanning is not as advanced as that of tanning booths, doctors still push for precaution when using this option. Taking proper precautions will help reduce the amount you ingest and help protect parts of the body that may become irritated. Doctors suggest to:

    •       wear protective eye gear or goggles

    •       wear nose clips

    •       close your mouth while the spray tan is in progress

    •       if possible, hold your breath to prevent breathing in the chemicals

    •       go as few times as possible

Unless you go into the tanning booth with a gas mask, going for a spray tan will allow DHA to seep into your lungs, eyes and nose. Even going a few times a year for special occasions still provides enough exposure to ingest a toxic amount of DHA. Taking precautions will help reduce that amount.