Can Spray Tanning Cause Cancer?

Heather Muir, Allure magazine

If you know me-or regularly read this blog-then you know I'm obsessed with spray tans (just look at the related links below-I blog about getting sprayed every chance I get). I always thought of them as a much safer alternative to sun exposure and congratulated myself for having my bronze glow misted on instead of cooking in a tanning bed (gross). You can imagine my dismay this morning when I read about a study from the University of Pennsylvania had found that some of the ingredients in spray tanners could be dangerous when inhaled.

See more: The 6 Most Flattering Haircuts for Round Faces

Here's what Dr. Rey Panettieri, a toxicologist and lung specialist at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, told ABC News: "The reason I'm concerned is the deposition of the tanning agents into the lungs could really facilitate or aid systemic absorption-that is, getting into the bloodstream. These compounds in some cells could actually promote the development of cancers or malignancies, and if that's the case then we need to be wary of them." Nothing like the C-word to get my attention.

See more: The 6 Most Flattering Haircuts for Round Faces

DHA (dihydroxyacetone, the chemical ingredient that darkens skin) was approved by the FDA in the seventies, but it was being used solely in self tanning creams, not misted out of a spray tan gun, which obviously disperses DHA into the air-and into your lungs if you're nearby. In fact, the agency tells consumers on their website that DHA should not be inhaled or ingested and that people should request measures to protect their eyes and mucous membranes and prevent inhalation. My spray tanner, who is amazing, always tells me to hold my breath when she mists my face, but this may not be enough.

See more: Top 21 Drugstore Beauty Bargains

So here's the question: Do I invest in a mask? or do I give up my beloved just-back-from-vacation glow and embrace my natural skin tone once and for all?

Does the study scare you? If you're an avid spray tanner, what will you do?


See more from Allure:
The Top 14 New Summer Hair Ideas

The 12 Best Eye Creams

2012 Readers' Choice Awards
10 Hairstyles That Make You Look 10 Years Younger