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Skin cancer? No thanks, but is spray tanning safe?


Christmas has not long gone; the first month of the year is already behind us and no doubt many among us are planning that summer vacation in the sun. Of course, it’s always good to get a head start on the sun tan front, but where to start?

Most people will make the mistake of going for the sun bed approach; marinating themselves in oil and slipping between the stark, glowing panels of a potential cancer machine while they slow cook to death, emerging later resembling something like the progeny of an orange.

The truth is that no prolonged exposure to UV rays is healthy, and for evidence of that fact just take a look at Spanish architecture or see how Africans dress in the blazing heat. They design their buildings to shield them from the sun throughout the day and their clothes cover most of their skin to keep them safe from harmful rays.

You can look this good too.

One popular alternative to sun bed tanning is the spray tan approach where a wannabe Oompa-Loompa steps into a converted miniature car wash is hosed down a misty chemical soup and turned into a tangerine mannequin.

While many companies extol the virtues of their “safe” products (mainly the companies that make them), there are concerns to be raised and questions should be asked about the contents of spray tans.

A substance known as DHA (dihydroxyacetone) has been the centre of controversy before, but according to the trusty FDA, DHA is a sugar type substance which turns the skin brown and is completely harmless – provided it remains outside the body. Whether breathing it in or absorption through thin areas of skin is harmful or not remains to be seen, but for now, DHA is deemed “safe.”

The truth is that only 11% of the chemicals contained in spray tans are certified by the FDA, which means the rest are left to the discretion of the manufacturers. They will of course tell us their animal tested products are completely harmless and that you can go back to your vanity without fear of death.

Ok, death may be a little far fetched, but a lot of people have experienced reactions and allergies after prolonged spraying. The chemicals remain in the skin and over time have a cumulative effect which can result in blisters and rashes.

The bottom line is simple, we’re encouraged to get a tan when we go on holiday; it’s the done thing. We can’t go home until we’re crispy at the edges and our white bits are so dazzling that they cause car crashes. But the reality is that we put ourselves in danger every time we do that, as the risk of skin cancer is a very real threat. Yes, a little vitamin D provided by natural sunlight is a good thing, but baking all day like an oily spud in a microwave hammock isn’t.

If you ever need to know how things should be done, see what the locals do. They know, because they live with it.

Please share your thoughts, or bad sun tanning experiences by leaving a comment.

Read about melanoma, potential skin cancer epidemic, a vaccine for skin cancer, how teenagers are putting their lives at risk getting a tan, and the AIT machines used at airports which put you at risk of cancer.


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