White Spots from Tanning?

 a few things you may want to know about what causes white spots from tanning beds!

find out more about what causes white spots from tanning here




What Causes White Spots from Tanning?


There have been many rumors about what causes white spots from tanning.  The most popular belief is that the what spots are actually a fungus which do not allow the skin to tan.  This fungus originates in the hair and then drops down on the back and shoulder and is only revealed after UV light exposure. 

In some people, white spots will appear after prolonged exposure to UV rays either from the sun or from tanning beds. There can be a genetic trait in the skin that causes these white spots from tanning since these cells do not produce melanin and therefore they are unaffected by the tanning process. This idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis is a genetic disorder that disables the skin from keeping pigment. White spots show up more when tanning makes the skin around them darker. There is no cure for this form of white spots.


Some medication will make a person's skin extremely sensitive to UV light. Birth control pills are just one of these many medications. The skin can tan very unevenly, producing what looks like white spots from tanning due to a number of medications. Before you fill any prescription at a pharmacy be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist and let them know that you tan either occasionally or regularly so you are well aware of any side effects that you may experience.

White spots could be the result of a skin fungus preventing the UV rays from entering into that patch of skin cells. This is a non-contagious form of fungus that is caused by the combination of sweating and heat directly on the skin. Prescription drugs, lotions or even using an anti-fungal shampoo on the skin can help eliminate the appearance of these white spots in order to try and get a more even tan.  Also, ensure the tanning bed is sanitized before each use with an approved tanning bed disinfectant.

Also, when lying down in a tanning bed there are a number of pressure points that will have a decrease in circulation due to the nature of the position of your body in the tanning bed. Locations such as the shoulder blades, hipbones, or elbows can produce white spots from tanning since they are most likely to have continuous contact with the tanning bed during your session. In order to try and eliminate the cause of these type of white spots, regular movement and switching positions in the tanning bed will help those pressure points from being focused on for the duration of your tanning session.

The most important thing to remember is that if you start to notice white spots from tanning or any other irregular skin conditions, contact your doctor immediately for examination. You do not want to self-diagnose yourself and end up deciding that your problem is not a big deal when it very well can be. Be sure to talk to a medical professional about any skin irritations or irregularities that you may have.  You may want to consider uv free spray tanning as an alternative to tanning beds.

Unlike spray tanning booths, an airbrush tan is applied by a technician using a hand sprayer.  This method allows for a more accurate and detailed application.  This method can also be used to contour the figure to give the impression of greater muscle definition.  Always ask about the experience and training of the technician before hand.

**Remember that airbrush tanning does not give you UV protection from the sun. Unlike traditional tanning a spray tan is appropriate for all skin types, even those that naturally would not tan.

**TIP: Some clients like the results from combining a airbrush tan with a traditional tan to receive a richer, more even tone.

Sunless Tanners and Bronzers

A number of cosmetic products are marketed for consumers to achieve a tanned appearance without having to go out in the sun or use artificial sources of ultraviolet radiation. FDA has received questions about some of these products. The following information is provided in response to these questions.

What are "sunless tanners"?

Neither the laws nor the regulations enforced by FDA define the term "sunless tanner." It typically refers to products that provide a tanned appearance without exposure to the sun or other sources of ultraviolet radiation. One commonly used ingredient in these products is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a color additive that darkens the skin by reacting with amino acids in the skin's surface.

What are "bronzers"?

Like the term "sunless tanner," "bronzer" is not defined in either the laws or the regulations enforced by FDA. It is often used to describe a variety of products intended to achieve a temporary tanned appearance. For example, among the products marketed as bronzers are tinted moisturizers and brush-on powders. These produce a temporary effect, similar to other types of makeup, and wash off over time. Some products are marketed with other ingredients in addition to DHA in order to provide a tanned appearance.

What does the law say about color additives, and DHA in particular?

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), Section 721 authorizes the regulation of color additives (other than coal-tar hair dyes), including their uses and restrictions. These regulations are found in Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR), beginning at Part 70. If a color additive is not permitted by regulation or is used in a way that does not comply with the specific regulation(s) authorizing its use, it is considered unsafe under the law. Such misuse of color additives causes a cosmetic to be adulterated.

DHA is listed in the regulations as a color additive for use in imparting color to the human body. However, its use in cosmetics--including sunless "tanning" products--is restricted to external application (21 CFR 73.2150). According to the CFR, "externally applied" cosmetics are those "applied only to external parts of the body and not to the lips or any body surface covered by mucous membrane" (21 CFR 70.3v). The industry has not provided safety data to FDA in order for the agency to consider approving it for use on these exposure routes, including "misting" from tanning booths.

In addition, no color additive may be used in cosmetics intended for use in the area of the eye unless the color additive is permitted specifically for such use (21 CFR 70.5a) 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)

As with the lips and other areas covered by mucous membrane, the industry has not provided safety data to FDA in order for the agency to consider approving it for use in the area of the eye.

The regulations listing DHA as a color additive also require it to meet tight specifications, with strict limitations on impurities. For example, volatile matter must not exceed 0.5 percent when measured at 34.6 degrees centigrade for three hours at a pressure of not more than 30 mm. mercury. (Please note that the reference to "millimeters of mercury" is a measure of atmospheric pressure, not an indication that DHA contains mercury.) Certain minerals are restricted to miniscule amounts, measured in parts per million (21 CFR 73.1150 and 73.2150).  

What does this mean for DHA spray "tanning" booths?

uv free type spray tanning booths are explained here

As noted above, the use of DHA in "tanning" booths as an all-over spray has not been approved by the FDA, since safety data to support this use has not been submitted to the Agency for review and evaluation, When using DHA-containing products as an all-over spray or mist in a commercial spray "tanning" booth, it may be difficult to avoid exposure in a manner for which DHA is not approved, including the area of the eyes, lips, or mucous membrane, or even internally.

Consequently, FDA advises asking the following questions when considering commercial facilities where DHA is applied by spraying or misting:

  • Are consumers protected from exposure in the entire area of the eyes, in addition to the eyes themselves?
  • Are consumers protected from exposure on the lips and all parts of the body covered by mucous membrane?
  • Are consumers protected from internal exposure caused by inhaling or ingesting the product?

If the answer to any of these questions is "no," the consumer is not protected from the unapproved use of this color additive. Consumers should request measures to protect their eyes and mucous membranes and prevent inhalation.

What about sunless tanning products sold in retail stores, such as creams and lotions?

DHA is approved for external application to the human body, which is the way these products are intended to be used. Consumers can easily avoid inhaling them or applying them to the area of the eye or mucous membrane.

Who is responsible for the safety of spray tanning booths?

The FD&C Act does not authorize FDA to approve cosmetic products or ingredients, with the exception of color additives that are not coal-tar hair dyes. Firms and individuals who market cosmetics are responsible for assuring that the products they market are safe when used under labeled or customary conditions of use and properly labeled. FDA can take action against firms and individuals who violate the law. The practice of administering such products by professionals, such as in salons, is generally the responsibility of local and state health authorities.

For more information about the regulation of cosmetic products and ingredients, see FDA Authority Over Cosmetics.

Do sunless tanners and bronzers provide protection from the sun?

Sunless tanners and bronzers may or may not provide protection from the sun. Only those sunless tanners that contain sunscreen ingredients and are labeled with sun protection factor ("SPF") numbers may provide protection. Consumers are advised to read the labeling carefully to determine whether or not these products provide protection from the sun.

All suntanning preparations that do not contain sunscreen ingredients are required to carry the following warning statement on the label:

"Warning--This product does not contain a sunscreen and does not protect against sunburn. Repeated exposure of unprotected skin while tanning may increase the risk of skin aging, skin cancer, and other harmful effects to the skin even if you do not burn." (21 CFR 740.19)

Sunscreens are regulated as over-the-counter drugs unless they are used in the product for reasons other than protecting the consumer from the sun, such as protecting the product itself from fading. Cosmetic products that are marketed with sun-protection claims, such as makeup labeled with SPF numbers, are regulated as both drugs and cosmetics. (See "Is It a Cosmetic, a Drug, or Both (Or Is It Soap?")

Has FDA received reports of adverse reactions associated with sunless tanners?

FDA has received reports from consumers stating that they have experienced adverse events associated with sunless tanning, including rashes and, primarily in the case of spray tanning booths, coughing, dizziness, and fainting. It is uncertain what, if any, ingredient or combination of ingredients in the sunless tanning products might have caused these adverse events, whether an individual's allergic reaction might have played a part, or whether factors unrelated to the sunless tanning products may have been involved, such as pre-existing medical conditions.

Under the authority of the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA), FDA requires ingredient declarations on cosmetics sold on a retail basis to consumers. In this way, consumers can know what ingredients are contained in the products they purchase and avoid ingredients to which they may be sensitive. However, the FPLA does not apply to products used exclusively by professionals, such as those used in spray tanning booths.

How can I report an adverse reaction to sunless tanners or other cosmetics?

Consumers and healthcare providers can report adverse reactions from cosmetic products, including sunless tanners, to the nearest FDA office, listed in the blue section of the telephone book. Or, contact FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Adverse Events Reporting System (CAERS) by phone at (301) 436-2405 or by e-mail at CAERS@fda.hhs.gov.




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