Sunless Self Tanners - The Best of Both Worlds

Episode #412 / Jun 11, 2012
Even dermatologists will admit, tans look good! However, tans are also a sign of skin damage and that damage can have deadly results. The good news is that there is a way to get a safe yet still beautiful tan, and in this episode of DermTV, Dr. Schultz explains how.
Doctor on June 13, 2012 at 7:52pm

On June 12, 2012, "Good Morning America" (GMA) reported on alleged dangers of dihydroxyacetone, the active ingredient in self tanners. After reading the transcript I will now say that self tanners are certainly much safer than ultraviolet induced tans whereas before I would have said self tanners are safe. I have no reason to believe at this time from the current evidence cited in the report that self tanners may not be completely safe in humans but studies need to be done to establish their safety on the basis of the GMA report. Two points that were raised need to be addressed. First is the fact that the active ingredient, dihydroxyacetone (DHA) in fact not only stains the dead cells of the skin but can be recovered from some of the live cells below. In addition, the percent that is absorbed or penetrates beyond the dead layer is higher than previously known. While initially that could raise questions, the fact is that DHA in the current form has been applied as a sunless tanner for over 30 years and there are no clusters of self tanner induced skin cancers or reports of any association clinically of self tanners causing skin cancer regardless of the amount absorbed or the depth of the absorption. The fact that DHA was shown in non-human lab studies to cause some abnormalities in no way changes the fact that there’s a greater than 30 year record of safe use of this product in humans. The second issue raised was the potential absorption via the lungs of the aerosol form when people are having a spray on tan whether self sprayed or sprayed in a salon. I would like to believe that when people spray underarm antiperspirant that they avoid inhaling those fumes and the same common sense applies to any fumes including those from self tanner. The recommendations that people take measures to prevent inhaling the fumes or absorbing them through the lips or eyes are common sense and I endorse them and they should be adhered to. Provided those guidelines are followed I see no reason at this time for spray on tans to be avoided unless or until studies are done that are relevant to humans. In conclusion, in my opinion, a sunless tanner is much, much safer than any ultraviolet induced tan. -Neal Schultz MD