The Health Reporter Is In: Jan. 18, 2018

The Health Reporter Is In: Jan. 18, 2018

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Q: How safe is it to get a spray tan?

A: It's a safer way to achieve a tan than actual sun exposure or using tanning beds, a Christie Clinic dermatologist said.

"From what we know right now, it is a safe alternative for patients wanting that tan look," said Dr. Caitlyn Foote.

Keep some precautions in mind, though.

The chemical commonly used to darken skin, dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is approved for external use only, and shouldn't be inhaled, ingested or used on any areas of the body covered by mucous membranes such as the lips, nose and in and around the eyes, according to the Food and Drug Administration. That's because any potential risks associated with that exposure are unknown.

The FDA advises inquiring at spray-tanning facilities if your eyes, mouth, nose and ears will be protected during the spraying, and if you'll be protected from breathing in the fumes. If a salon says no to any of those questions, go somewhere else, it advises.

After you get a spray tan, also be sure to use sunscreen.

"The spray tan does nothing to protect from the sun," Foote said.

She advises using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to help protect against skin cancer, and applying it on sunny and cloudy days alike, even in the winter.

Some businesses offer both spray tanning and tanning beds, but be aware the risk of combining spray tanning with exposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds is unknown, the FDA said.

If that's not enough to skip tanning beds, Foote adds this reminder: They raise the risk for melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

For those who first use a tanning bed before age 35, the melanoma risk can be up to 75 percent higher, according to the FDA.

More information about skin-cancer risks will be available at a fundraiser next week for Christie Clinic's cancer center.

The clinic's dermatology department is joining BodiBronze Sunless Spa in southwest Champaign in hosting this event, to be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 23 at the City Center, 503 S. Chestnut St., C.

The evening will offer free skin-cancer checks, entertainment, food and a cash bar — plus an attempt by BodiBronze to break a world record for the number of spray tans done in an hour.