There's been speculation about the safety of dihydroxyacetone, the active ingredient in many self-tanners. However, when used correctly, DHA should have no negative effects on your health.
If you're looking for a safe way to get a sun-kissed glow, you may want to turn to a self-tanner. However, over the years, there's been speculation about the use of DHA, the active ingredient in many self-tanners.
It's widely agreed that when used correctly, self-tanning products and DHA will have no negative effects on your health. However, it's important to understand the potential risks of these products when used incorrectly.
What is DHA?
Dihydroxyacetone, more commonly known as DHA, is a colour additive that temporarily darkens the skin. When applied, it causes a reaction that makes the top layer of your skin, the stratum corneum, turn brown. This layer is made up purely of dead skin cells, and DHA doesn't penetrate to any other layers.
What are the potential risks with DHA?
Initially, scientists were concerned about DHA's effects on humans. A study showed that a high amount of DHA could produce free radicals, which could damage or mutate cells, leading many to believe the chemical was carcinogenic. There were also suggestions that DHA could seep into your deeper skin layers and bloodstream to start the cell mutation process.
However, there's no evidence to suggest that the low concentrations of DHA in self-tanning products have any negative health effects. When applied topically and used correctly, DHA is neither toxic nor carcinogenic, as DHA can't penetrate the protective barriers of the skin.
When should I avoid DHA?
If you apply self-tanners topically, then you should have no worries about using products containing DHA. However, you should avoid applying DHA to cuts or abrasions to ensure the chemical stays on the top layer of your skin. You should also avoid applying DHA to sensitive areas, such as your eyes and lips, where skin is thinner and weaker.
Studies also suggest that inhaling spray-on self-tanners could raise the risk of asthma, COPD, or cancer. If you're using a spray, wear protective clothing over the mouth, eyes, and nose to prevent inhalation or ingestion.
It's also recommended that pregnant women and children avoid using DHA simply as a precaution.
The most important thing to remember
You'll be hard-pressed to find an effective self-tanner that doesn't contain DHA. You're much better off using a DHA product correctly and then ensuring your skin is well protected from UV rays. Using a self-tanner is always a better and safer option than traditional sun tanning.