European health officials have recently issued a warningabout fake tanning products, the lotions and sprays that have dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as the active ingredient. DHA is a colorless sugar that interacts with the dead cells located in the upper layer of the epidermis, causing a color change.
You may view these products as a “safe” alternative for tanning, considering the dangers of sun exposure in increasing the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. However, these products are filled with chemicals and when they are sprayed on the skin, they are often inhaled and may also be absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in possible DNA damage.
In June, medical experts reviewed 10 of the most-current scientific studies on DHA for ABC News and said DHA has the potential to cause genetic alterations and DNA damage. The studies were not on humans, but some found DHA altered genes of multiple types of cells and organisms when tested in different labs by different scientists.
The worrisome chemicals in sunless tanning products include endocrine disruptors such as benzophene-3, carcinogens such as formaldehyde and skin irritants such as diethanolamine. One can surmise that some of the chemicals in fake tan may be toxic to reproduction and may be harmful to a developing fetus, causing birth defects. In addition, the products may have an effect on allergies, diabetes and obesity.
Bottom line: Until the effects of fake tanning products are better understood, the best — and safest — approach to many of these chemicals is avoidance, particularly for couples trying for pregnancy and especially during a pregnancy.