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Is it safe to use fake tans during pregnancy?

Posted July 9, 2018


It is a question often asked and rarely answered comprehensively – is fake tan safe to use during pregnancy? In an attempt to fully answer the question and provide as much information as possible, Andrea Taylor from Solaire undertook extensive research and literature review on the subject.

What is spray tan?

The active ingredient in spray tan (or fake tan) is Dihydroxyacetone (DHA). To the layperson – DHA is a type of simple carbohydrate or sugar. It is often derived from plant sources such as sugar beet, sugar cane or even the fermentation of glycerine. It is worth noting that there are synthetic types of DHA on the market. Whilst DHA is the active ingredient in spray tan, there are other ingredients that are worthy of taking interest in concerning pregnancy and safety. They are Propylene Glycol and Erythrulose and of course, a lot of tans now contain coconut and argon oil etc: in them which need to be avoided in pregnancy – this will be discussed in more detail later in this article.

How does DHA work in spray tan?

DHA works by interacting with the proteins (amino acids) of the skin cells in the top layer of your skin. In this layer, the skin’s cells are dead so there is no penetration into the bloodstream.

The Type of DHA also makes a difference during pregnancy…

Solaire only uses the best DHA available on the market and have done so for over twenty years.  The type of DHA we use is Eco-Cert approved DHA and to our knowledge, we are the only brand in Australia that uses it. Our DHA is from France and is the highest grade possible. This type of DHA is the only type of DHA that is authorized to use in a certified organic product. But be wary of creative and misleading advertising as there is no such thing as a 100% organic tan!

So to the question of safety…

In the United States, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act1 (FD&C Act), Section 721 authorizes the regulation of colour additives (other than coal-tar hair dyes), including their uses and restrictions. DHA is listed in these regulations. DHA is approved for external application to the human body, which is the way these products are intended to be used. However, The FD&C Act does not authorize the FDA to approve cosmetic products or ingredients. In Australia, DHA is not listed under TGA (Therapeutic Goods Australia – and should not be as the therapists would need to have a higher medical/paramedical qualification if this was the case) and falls under the category of cosmetic applications. I am unable to find any specific guidelines for spray tan other than the safety guidelines that fall under Worksafe Australia, which outlines overspray extraction units as required for inhalation.

What does all this lingo really mean?

DHA is not permitted for use in the area of the eye. The CFR defines “area of the eye” as follows: “the area enclosed within the circumference of the supra-orbital ridge, including the eyebrow, the skin below the eyebrow, the eyelids and the eyelashes, and conjunctival sac of the eye, the eyeball, and the soft areolar tissue that lies within the perimeter of the infra-orbital ridge.” (21 CFR 70.3s) Therefore spraying the face should not occur, and in Australia extraction units are mandatory.

Ingredients to avoid (Especially for your clients expecting!)


Spray tan ingredients not only affect the result of a spray tan but more importantly the health of the client.  Gone are the days that spray tans have the petrochemicals such as propylene glycol in them, but it is surprising to still see ingredients such as Erythrulose in spray tan. It is thought that Erythrulose will lengthen the life of a spray tan but in fact, it produces a light spray tan and needs to be left on the skin for an extended period of time to work at all (like 12 hours plus and no one leaves a tan on for that length of time). The Australian government have also issued information stating that Erythrulose is Geno-toxic (causes cancer) NICNAS 2008. In an environment where the industry is after a faster and darker tan and where consumers demand products look after their health, there is no place for Erythrulose in spray tan products. (NICNAS_erythulose_public_report_2008)

Coconut, Argan oil and other essential oils in spray tans

Coconut oil and Argan oil are listed by the US Food and Drug Administration as potential nut allergens.  There would be nothing worse than applying the perfect tan and then have your client start having difficulty breathing as they have a nut allergy. Increased progesterone and estrogen levels during pregnancy may make your clients who are expecting more sensitive to a number of ingredients – including nut sensitivity!

Whilst it is true that coconut is technically not a nut, there are documented cases of anaphylactic reactions that have landed those with sensitivities in the Intensive Care Unit. The first rule of thumb is to “DO NOT HARM” and as an intensive care nurse; I often see admissions to ICU just because one simple question or piece of advice was not imparted.

It is up to you the therapist to warn of any product with these ingredients in them as a potential nut reaction, have the documentation signed that you have advised and keep a copy on your file. I suggest any spray tan with any nut oil in it be excluded from your choice of products to use on expecting mums.

Solaire Spray Tan Solutions are made with 100% natural ingredients and under the supervision of the medical industry. All of the Solaire ColourFuze Complex ® Green – GBS ® – Green Base Solution and ColourFuze Complex ® Violet – VBS ® – Violet Base solution are suitable for use during pregnancy as they do not contain any of the ingredients to avoid.

Our ColourFuze Complex ® Red – RBS ® – Red Base Solution is a dry oil spray tan with 11 essential oils is not suitable for Pregnancy or with people with nut allergies as they contain Argon Oil and Coconut Oil, however it is suitable for all other clients.

Put your health and safety first with Solaire Spray Tan.
Solaire was one of the first spray tan companies in Australia and is also the largest independent importer and manufacturer in the tanning industry in the country.


  1. Avoid spray tans or anything foreign on your skin in the first trimester. The skin is the body’s largest organ and the risk of allergic reactions increase as your skin can become more sensitive during pregnancy because of hormone levels.
  2. Consult your doctor and gain doctors consent. Most spray tan technicians will ask the client to sign a consent form stating that they have gained doctors consent. A letter that can be carried with the client and copied by the spray tan technician is ideal.
  3. After the first trimester prior to a spray tan or fake tans – do a patch test. Again, as outlined previously, the skin dynamics change during pregnancy and becomes more sensitive.
  4. Avoid Spray Booths that are a closed design due to the risk of inhalation and excessive overspray
  5. Open designed spray booths are considered better than enclosed spray booths.
  6. Avoid spray booths with “magnetic floor plates” as there has not been any research done on these in relation to pregnancy.
  7. Always follow FDA recommendations concerning safety.
  8. Handheld sessions can be more customized to avoid having the face sprayed. Ensure the area is well ventilated and the technician uses an overspray reduction unit. Avoid having your face sprayed. I personally do not to spray the face of my pregnant clients and neither do my master technicians. Instead, I offer a mineral makeup or a BB cream.

Technician Master Tips.

  1. Choose products with Eco-Cert approved DHA and spray tan solutions without Propylene Glycol and Erythrulose.
  2. Choose a slightly lighter tan than what the client has previously used. The rationale is that if the client is going to “throw” a different colour than normal because of the hormones then a lighter tan or a tan with a lower percentage of DHA will not be as obvious or as dramatic. For example, if the client normally chooses a dark tan of say 12% DHA, then drop the DHA percentage down to say a 10%.
  3. Spray slightly lighter than normal. Again, this is because a little less concentrate of DHA on the skin will produce fewer problems if any occur.
  4. DHA is not ideal to use on the face as it dries the skin, the best practice is to offer the client a tinted BB cream, tinted makeup primer, mineral makeup or bronzer. The next best options are a rub on lotion or mousse rather than a spray.
  5. Ensure that the client uses a pH salon quality exfoliation product and pH balanced salon quality body wash. With all those hormones circulating, it is important to ensure the skin is in its prime state to accept the spray tan.
  6. Ensure a client consultation card is completed before every spray tan in detail throughout the pregnancy of your client – making particular note of colour uptake, wear off and any other

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