Accidentally Inhaled Spray Tan? Is That Bad For You?

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Professional spray tanning is simple, quick, and produces natural-looking results without the health risks associated with tanning beds or sun tanning. This is one of the reasons it’s so popular.

However, there are now questions as to whether spray tanning is as healthy of a tanning alternative as we all thought.

Have you ever accidentally inhaled spray tan? Gross! Is breathing in spray tan bad for you?

Anything that is meant for external use only is not good to be breathing in. That’s kind of a given, but how bad is it?

In this article, we are going to explore spray tanning, how it works, what happens if you breathe it in, and give you some pointers on how to protect yourself.

Read on to learn to spray tan safely.


What Is A Spray Tan?

Spray Tan Machine

A spray tan is a procedure whereby a solution is sprayed onto the body which, over a few hours, develops into a simulated tan. There are two common spray tan methods:

1.        Spray Tan Booth

Most salons that offer spray tans will use a spray tan booth. These booths are outfitted with several nozzles that emit tanning solution.

You can have the solution applied to your entire body quickly and efficiently.

2.        Airbrush Gun

Spray Tan Machine

You may also find a salon that has a tanning artist that uses a spray gun to apply the spray tan. Tanning artists also often work freelance and you can schedule in-home appointments.

They will use a portable tanning airbrush, which provides a similar level of control and consistency as tanning booths, so you are guaranteed a flawless, smooth tan without streaking.

How Does A Spray Tan Work?

Spray Tan Machine

Now one might think that a spray tan is more or less painting a tan onto your skin. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.

A tan from a spray tan occurs as a result of a chemical process between your skin and the active ingredient in the spray tan.

Although some spray tans may contain a color additive, more commonly for those using an airbrush than in a tanning booth, that color additive is not what creates the tanned look. It’s just used as a guide to make sure there aren’t any missed spots.

The coloring agent is later washed off and does not contribute to your tanned look.

The active ingredient in spray tans is Dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA is clear.

It works by creating a chemical reaction with dead cells on the skin’s surface layer to temporarily darken the skin and simulate a tan.

Do Spray Tans Damage Your Skin?

In short, no.

Spray tans do not damage your skin and have been approved by the FDA and deemed safe for topical use.

However…. DHA has been linked to side effects with long-term, frequent use.

It’s been found that the free radicals released by DHA cause oxidative stress that can accelerate skin aging, which translates to fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and sagging.

DHA also lowers Vitamin D levels*.

*It should be noted that these findings are in respect to frequent, long-term use – like, every 2 weeks over several years, frequent.

Getting a spray tan occasionally should not cause any damage to your skin.

When it comes to spray tans – the key is moderation.

If you have someone’s event you are attending in November and you want to liven up your pasty winter complexion, or you’re planning to go on a sunny holiday and don’t want to arrive looking like a tourist, then getting a spray tan for a special occasion or event is not going to do you any harm.

But if you are in perpetual fake tan mode all the time to get a year-round tan, like you have a secret tropical holiday house that you jet off to every couple of weeks, then maybe you need to rethink your tanning strategy.

Is Breathing In Spray Tan Bad For You?

While DHA, unless you are subjecting yourself to frequent long-term use, should not cause any side effects or damage to your skin, breathing in spray tan is another story altogether.

DHA is only approved for topical use. If inhaled, it can be absorbed into the bloodstream and trigger asthma and exacerbate lung conditions.

DHA has also been found to have the potential to cause gene mutation and may lead to the development of cancer over the long term with overexposure.

That’s pretty scary stuff.

This is why you should always be using [amazon_link=”B01GFN4M54″ link_text=”spray tan nose filters” link_icon=”amazon” /]. Yeah, you can mess up and get too much spray tan on your hands and feet. But you do not want to get spray tan in your nose!

Should I Stop Spray Tanning?

As long as you protect yourself by keeping spray tan away from any mucous membranes, like your eyes, nose mouth, and your ‘girlie bits’, and you don’t inhale it, a spray tan is still a safe way to tan. It is still significantly safer than using a tanning bed arguably better than tanning in the sun.

How to Protect Yourself During A Spray Tan

#1.  Use protective eyewear.

Most reputable tanning salons will offer you some type of plastic eye covering that you can use to cover your eyes. 

#2.  Wear Spray Tan Nose Filters or a mask.

Spray tan is an aerosol mist that can linger in the air, so simply holding your breath might not protect you and you could still breathe it in, even after the nozzles have stopped spraying. Wearing [amazon_link=”B01GFN4M54″ link_text=”spray tan nose filters” link_icon=”amazon” /] will protect you from inhaling the solution when it’s being sprayed near your face.

A mask will also help you avoid inadvertently inhaling spray tan solution.

#4.  Use undergarments to keep the mist from getting on your private areas.

They don’t have to be pretty and you can sacrifice a pair of undies that you can reuse for future tanning.

Not only are your private parts sensitive and prone to irritation, they are a mucous membrane that can very easily absorb the spray tan into the bloodstream.

#5.  Make sure there’s proper ventilation at the salon.

#6. Check out the salon BEFORE booking an appointment.

Make sure the tanning area is properly ventilated and find out what protective gear they have, so you know what they will provide and what you need to bring.

Take Away

Is breathing in spray tan bad for you? – Yes.

Does spray tan cause skin damage? – Only with frequent, long-term use.

Can I Spray tan safely? – Yes. Just don’t overdo it and protect yourself.

If all this talk about side effects has completely put you off spray tanning, your next best option would be to use a sunless self-tanner or tanning water

Here are a few select choices we really like.

Just understand that sunless-self tanners and tanning waters also use DHA. So the potential skin damage with long-term, frequent use is the same as for spray tans.

But unlike spray tans, there is no risk of breathing it in.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).