Are Spray Self-Tanners Dangerous?


When bronzing goes wrong, it can be scary. (Photo: Gallery Stock)

Lucy Fowler pulled the cap off a bottle of St. Tropez Instant Wash Off Face and Body Spray, which she’d recently purchased at a shop near her home in Nottingham, England, and sprayed the aerosol bronzing mist on her legs — as countless women do every day. Moments later, the 25-year-old telesales representative from the U.K. was gasping for breath.

“My chest started to tighten, and I thought maybe I had used too much,” Fowler told the Daily Mail. “I was in the bathroom with the window open, but my chest started getting really tight. … I rang 101 and they sent an ambulance straight out.”

Fowler was put on oxygen at the hospital, where she explained to doctors that her breathing troubles started immediately she sprayed the self-tanning mist. Physicians called St. Tropez to find out more about the product, and the manufacturer said that the product had been quietly removed from retail shelves around three years ago. According to the Daily Mail’s report, a “confidential safety recall” was issued following multiple incidents similar to Fowler’s, where users had been left breathless after inhaling the spray.

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Thankfully, Fowler got medical attention right away following the unintentional inhalation of the spray. Doctors ran a battery of tests, and she was kept in the hospital overnight before heading home the next day. She says she won’t be using St. Tropez products again — and perhaps won’t use aerosols at all.

“After finding out about the chemicals in the product, they said I was very lucky to be alive,” she says of her doctors’ final assessment. “I’m just so shocked. I’m really paranoid about using sprays now. It was so scary. … I was constantly coughing and it was so painful. I was really ill for a few days afterwards and I had to take a few weeks off work.”

Yahoo Beauty contacted St. Tropez about this incident in the UK, and they expressed their concerns for Fowler. They said they were “contacting their retail partners” to make sure the recalled product is off shelves. “We take the health and safety of our consumers very seriously, and we have begun an investigation to establish exactly how Lucy was able to purchase this product recently,” a rep for the brand tells Yahoo Beauty. “We will share further details once we know exactly what has happened. As far as we are aware this is an isolated incident. St.Tropez Instant Tan Wash Off Face & Body Lotion (100ml) is not affected nor are any of our other products and professional services and consumers can continue to enjoy using these as usual.”

In the event that you come across St. Tropez Instant Wash Off Face and Body Spray while shopping, or have some in your home, please notify retail personnel of the recall or check the package for information on how to safely return for a refund. That said, it’s important to be aware that there are a few safety concerns surrounding aerosol sprays in general — especially for certain populations, according to Jonathan P. Parsons, MD, director of the OSU Asthma Center at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

The FDA and Consumer Reports have warned consumers about using aerosol products like self-tanners and spray-on sunscreens in the past, especially on children. “Aerosol self-tanners can contain many different chemicals, which vary depending on the type of product being used,” Parsons tells Yahoo Beauty. “These products can cause asthma attacks, as they create a fine mist that’s easily inhaled deep into the lungs. The chemicals and strong smells of some aerosol products can cause worsening asthma when inhaled.”

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Parsons says the main component in most aerosol self-tanners is dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, a chemical that some experts worry may affect your health negatively if it trapped in the lungs — an organ that, if you stretched it out flat, would cover a tennis court. Especially If you have small children or respiratory issues, it’s probably best to avoid aerosol versions of spray-tanners, sunscreens, and deodorants.

Parsons says a lot of experts go even further for those with respiratory concerns. “Many doctors strongly urge patients with asthma to eliminate all aerosol products from their homes, and limit exposure at school and in the workplace,” he says. “If they must be used, they should be applied in well-ventilated areas and outdoors whenever possible.”

When it comes to self-tanning for the summer, it’s great that consumers are thinking of ways to get that bronze glow without the UV exposure. But with so many other self-tanning options on the market — like lotions, foams, and towelettes — consider skipping the aerosols. That way, you can breathe a sigh of relief instead of that DHA.

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