The FDA’s New Warnings About Spray Tanning and Why I Don’t Airbrush Anymore

Have you read the new reports on the hazards of spray tanning? DHA, what’s used to darken the skin and found in every self tanning formula, has been shown to be dangerous when inhaled by the FDA. But I already knew that..

Let me back up a few years.

In early 2010 I went to an airbrushing class in L.A, they also had a spray tanning machine that I fell in love with and bought so I could spray my brides tan before their weddings. It was a hit. Everyone wanted a tan and the system was so easy to use and the color it gave was so pretty that I was tanning clients almost daily during my busy season. I used a walk in shower in a rarely used bathroom in our basement for the tanning sessions where I always had the fan running so it would suck up the fumes. Perfect right? Not so much.

Months later when my busy wedding season was coming to a close, I started having issues with my memory. Not just of the ‘where are my keys’ variety, but on top of short term loss, every time I would talk, I couldn’t find the words I wanted to say. I knew the first time it happened that something was wrong. My mind drew a blank like it never had before and thinking of words as simple as ‘continue’ or ‘besides’ would be gone without a trace. I knew what I wanted to say, but couldn’t place the words which became so frustrating that I’d stop mid sentence and try to focus on what I wanted to say. “Hang on” I’d say while I thought in silence, frustrated at what had become of my typically razor sharp vocab. I started Googling around for what it could be – Alzheimer’s maybe? Early onset dementia? Then a few months later like a bolt of lightening, it came to be from nowhere: It’s the airbrushing.

I’d been inhaling airbrush fumes almost daily between the spray tanning and the makeup often times in my office or a hotel suite where brides get ready where good ventilation and circulated air isn’t ideal. I knew I was breathing it in and often had difficulty taking in full breaths after working a long day, I also started becoming winded more easily walking short distances, just out of shape I’d think to myself, nothing more. My clients were so happy with their beautiful tans and makeup that I was hesitant (to say the least) about quitting this new skill that I had perfected and marketed like crazy. But my feeling about the airbrushing contributing to my memory loss came to me so swiftly and so clearly that I resolved to give up spray tanning and using the airbrush makeup to see if things would get any better. It was bittersweet to say the least and hard to explain to frustrated brides about how I can’t use the airbrush foundation for their wedding even though it’s what they fell in love with for their trial run and told their bridesmaids they’d have their makeup sprayed on to create perfect skin. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it in the end because within 6 months or so my word finding was finally back to normal, as was my breathing and memory loss and I felt like myself again.

Here’s the part where I say that I have no proof that airbrushing caused my memory and word finding problems, it’s just what I experienced.

For me, I won’t be spray tanning anytime soon and I haven’t used my airbrush but a few times in the past two years. Enough time has passed where the fear died down I think because recently I started to consider using it again if I’m outside or near an open window since I really loved the results. Playing with fire, I know.

As for the new warnings, spray at your own risk. Personally, I think the handheld airbrushing is more pointed and controlled than the Mystic tanning booths that just spray the hell out of you while standing in an enclosed box so if you must spray, choose the spray-by-hand option and ask about ventilation and how long it takes. 10 minutes or so is probably reasonable. Check out the full report via ABC News below.

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