DHA, a sugar molecule that bronzes just the top layer of the skin, is the only coloring agent that has been approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It has been a common ingredient in cosmetics for many years. Self-tanning products are available as lotions, creams, sprays and wipes and typically contain 3-5% DHA. Results generally occur within a few hours, and the color will fade in 7-10 days as you naturally shed skin cells.
There is no hard evidence that DHA is harmful or carcinogenic to humans when applied topically and in the small, recommended doses. When applying or administering spray tanners, be sure not to ingest or inhale the product. Protective gear should be worn to cover the eyes, mouth and nose.
I recommend maintaining your natural complexion, but if you prefer a darker skin tone, self-tanners are the safest route. The scariest option is undoubtedly a visit to a tanning salon. Nearly 30 million people use tanning beds each year in the US; of those, 2.3 million are teens. Below are some alarming facts on indoor tanning, which can also be found at www.skincancer.org.
· Those who make just four visits to a tanning salon per year can increase their risk for melanoma by 11 percent and their risk for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma by 15 percent.
· Indoor ultraviolet (UV) tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.
· Frequent tanners using new high-pressure sunlamps may receive as much as 12 times the annual UVA dose compared to the dose they receive from sun exposure.