We all know that tanning is damaging for skin, so spray tans are a better option. The ideal is to be pale and happy, but that simply isn’t going to happen for many people. It’s no surprise that tanning in the sun isn’t good for your skin — it’s the number one cause of aging. Staying out of the sun can mean the difference between signs of aging showing up at 50 instead of 30.
But staying out of the sun means many of us will miss out on the golden glow we so crave. And if you can’t live without being a little tan, spray tans are a better option that frying in the sun or a tanning booth.
A study on young adults found that 22% had tried tanning lotions in the last year and another 22% were thinking about using them. I’ve personally found that many people I know who take vacations in winter feel a need to get a glow going beforehand. Base tans are actually very damaging, which leaves sunless tanning as a better option for getting that bronze coloring.
So, before you start spraying, be sure to take some safety precautions to make sure you have the best experience possible.
[Read More: The Five Biggest Summer Skin Care Myths — Debunked!]
You may be a bit tanner, but you aren’t invincible. Those who use sunless tanners are often those who are the most at-risk for sunburn in the first place. DHA (dihydroxyacetone), the main ingredient in spray tans, works by forming melanoids (pigments) on the outermost layer of skin when it reacts with amino acids and amino groups. Then there is an amine reaction with keto and aldo compounds that form ketoimines and aldoimines (Danish Ministry of the Environment).
This process, however, did not alter your skin, i.e. your melanocytes, enough to give you extra protection. Those with darker complexions have more built-in protection because they have larger melanin-producing cells that last longer (Nature). Those with lighter complexions simply must be more careful — though everyone should be using sun protection.
Think of spray tans, not as sun protection or as altering your skin in some way, but merely as giving the illusion that you are a tanner person than you are.
[Read More: What is the Biology of Skin Color?]
Stay Out of the Sun for a Day
DHA, the chemical in spray tans that helps give you a color, can actually make skin sensitive to the sun for 24 hours after use. One study found that sunless tanners increase free radicals by 180% in those crucial hours after application (Spectrochimica Acta).
This means that 24-hours after application, you either need to be extra cautious about sun protection, or stay out of the sun altogether. Your sunless spray tan will last longer than a day — though their time on your skin is limited — as they fade as the body naturally sheds skin cells. So, do your sunless tan 24-hours in advance of when you want to strut around like a bronze god or goddess.
And, as mentioned above, you’ll still need sunscreen!
Hold Your Breath
A study done by ABC news found that DHA, the main ingredient in sray tans, should not be inhaled or ingested (New York Magazine). This is a larger concern with spray tans. By getting into the blood stream through inhalation, there is concern that DHA could be absorbed into the body and it’s possible that it could cause cancer. Further tests will reveal how problematic the presence of DHA may be in spray tans.
For now, be sure to hold your breath as much as possible while spray tanning. If you have the option — such as with home spray tans — spray in a well-ventilated area, where you are less likely to inhale the spray.
If you’re looking for a glow, spray tans and sunless tanning are a better option that actually tanning in the sun or a tanning booth. There are still some concerns with sunless tanning, but if you take the right precautions, you can make your experience as safe as possible. Just remember, you still need sun protection, stay out of the sun for 24-hours, and hold your breath when spray tanning. Keep these things in mind and you can get a safer tan.
Post sponsored by Blue Tanning & Beauty