UV-Free Tanning Becomes More Popular

URBANDALE, Iowa  --  With prom around the corner, high school student Becka Williams is already planning her look.

She said, "I don't want my normal color because I'm really pale a lot in the winter. Being tan just makes you feel so much prettier and happier."

Her mom won't allow her to get a glow from ultraviolet rays. Ingrid Williams said, "I've had moles I've had to have taken off that were atypical or precancerous, and I don't want that for my daughter."

So she turned to a spray tan.

Bronze 515 Custom Airbrush Tanning Owner Leah Wafful said, “A lot of people are event tanners. And what that means, they get spray tans for events, it's a gala, or they're going on vacation or prom or homecoming."

A whole-body spray tan costs $35. The color develops in 12-24 hours and lasts 5-10 days.

“It's become significantly more popular just in the last couple of years. The spray tanning industry has changed drastically from how they make the product to what's in the product," Wafful said.

Dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, is what produces the tan. The chemical is found in spray tans and lotions on store shelves. The Food and Drug and Administration approved the use of DHA in the 70s, but only for external application on the skin.

"It's not, however, approved for use in the mucous membranes, so it shouldn't come in contact with the eyes, nose, lips, or mouth, and perhaps most importantly the lungs," said John Stoddard Cancer Center Oncology Outreach Coordinator Gina Mandernach. She added, "When you're getting an airbrush tan, you really don't want to breathe in those chemicals because we don't have good data to know what the long-term health effects might be."

The FDA recommends people wear nose guards, eye goggles, and lip balm, and advises customers ask the salon about precautions to avoid ingesting the spray.

Becka said she feels safe at Bronze 515.

"She has a big fan that you will stand in front of when she does your spray tans, so it sucks up all the excess spray tan when it goes in the air,” she said.

Mandernach said self-tanners and spray tans won't protect you from the sun. You still need to wear sunscreen throughout the year to prevent skin cancer.