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“No Bull” facts about Airbrush Tanning

Chapter 6: Page 1 of 1
Table of Contents  |  Chapter 7

Chapter 6:  FDA and OSHA Guidelines. What’s in it and can it hurt me?

The fact is that the majority of salons offering spray tanning whether by mist on booth or by airbrushing are violating FDA (Food and Drug Administration) guidelines with regard to the use of DHA containing products and exposure limits as mandated by OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) to other ingredients that may be contained in some solutions.

Sad but true! The fact of the matter is that due to poor education, ignorance of the law or just penny wise and pound foolish practices, most people calling themselves airbrush tanning technicians, salon booth owners, and worst of all sales and marketing personnel of manufacturers are actually unaware or simply choose to ignore safe practices with regard to atomized spray tanning products. This ignorance will eventually cause the industry, clients, salon owners, technicians and insurance companies problems if this is not corrected and fast.

Most people think that DHA or Dihydroxyacetone is simply a non-toxic colorless sugar that has been approved for about thirty years or so. For the most part this is a true statement but here is where the problems lie. DHA has been approved for topical application because through testing the FDA has determined that it cannot be absorbed into the blood steam through the dermis with the exception of mucous membranes i.e.; lips, eyes, lungs, sinus tissue, and female genitalia. See link below.

Since the advent of spray on tanning in all its forms; airbrushing, mist on booths, or aerosol cans, a new problem is starting to reveal itself and that is the atomized inhalation of the solutions. Did you know that DHA is allowed to contain arsenic, a poison, and lead a known carcinogen? Also the FDA does not police the manufacture of DHA and assay its contents. In other words batches of DHA that are produced by a host of refineries are exempt from certification. Without certification nobody can be absolutely sure that the DHA used in their solutions does not contain more of these potentially harmful ingredients. According to the FDA’s good manufacturing processes and to the extent that these ingredients can be avoided, DHA may contain up to 3 parts per million of arsenic, 20 parts per million of lead, and 20 parts per million of iron. See link below.

These concentrations are extremely low and pose no immediate health risk when applied topically. However, repeated inhalation exposure to these levels can be detrimental to your health. The technicians applying the product are at a far greater risk due to the fact that they are exposed to this on a daily basis. Although there have never been any studies conducted by the FDA or OSHA with regard to repeated inhalation exposure, common sense will tell you that you do not want to be breathing poisons or carcinogens at any level. I know that I certainly don’t.

In addition to the impurities in DHA that are minor, other ingredients in the solution such as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) such as SD Alcohol, and Isobutane can cause additional problems such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory distress, fainting, numbness, as well as nasal and eye irritation. These ingredients can be many and a review of each ingredient, its concentration in the solution, and the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) must be reviewed before any conclusions can be drawn as to their safety or lack of it. Exposure limits for each ingredient are also important and are dictated by OSHA. Here are some complaints as described above from various products and companies. See link and PCC (Product complaint codes 13 b and c) toward bottom of page at

Here is the injury code related to allergic reactions from what I believe is most likely skin contact. These problems can be allergies to ingredients other than DHA.

Code Injury Complaint:
14    Dermatitis (to include rash, redness, swelling, blisters, sores, weeping, lumps, inflammation, sunburn, chemical burn, and irritation)
19    Pain (to include itching, stinging, burning, soreness, and tingling)

Here are the injury codes caused from what I believe is atomized inhalation.
23    Nervous System Reactions (to include dizziness, headache, irritability, nervousness, and numbness)
24    Respiratory System Reactions (to include choking, coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath, and wheezing)
25    Digestive System Reactions (to include upset stomach, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea)


You will find the body parts codes listed directly under the injury codes. Just scroll down under injury codes on the FDA page.

Note: Some that read this may say that I am putting out information that is detrimental to this industry. That is true only for the ignorant. Contrary to the old adage “what people don’t know can hurt them.” Knowledge is power. Knowing what potential problems are is the only way to develop safe practices and equipment to prevent them. The bottom line here is that when used properly in accordance with FDA and OSHA regulations these types of problems can be avoided and make the industry safe and poised for viable, unadulterated growth.

Scentual Sun utilizes only FDA approved ingredients in all its products and teaches its clients how to utilize them in a FDA and OSHA approved environment following the safe practices as outlined with ventilation being a key factor. This information is just a part of what our training includes. However, this philosophy is applied to every aspect of our business and is an integral part of our client’s success and our technicians and customer’s safety.

Copyright Scentual Sun Tanning Systems 2006. Any unauthorized use or reproduction of this document is strictly prohibited and punishable by law.


Table of Contents  |  Chapter 7

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