ASA News

MTV’s “True Life” tanning episode full of misinformation

Friday, March 29, 2013

A recent episode of MTV’s “True Life” followed two young adults that were self-proclaimed “tanning addicts.” The episode was filled with misconceptions about tanning, including outdoor, indoor and spray tanning. As the leader in responsible tanning, the American Suntanning Association wants to clear up some of that misinformation.

Nobody should tan indoors or outdoors multiple times a day. Moderate indoor suntanning is all about looking good while reducing the risk of sunburn. Trained indoor suntanning operators, with the help of session management software, won’t allow customers to tan more than once in a 24-hour period. Operators also control all exposure times to minimize a client’s risk of overexposure and sunburn.

The “75% increased risk of melanoma” statistic is misleading. This statistic came from a World Health Organization study that combined the data from medical phototherapy equipment, unsupervised home units and commercial sunbeds. Results of the study showed medical equipment to increase risk 96%, unsupervised home units 40%, and commercial sunbeds only 6%, which is statistically insignificant. The statistics were combined for the 75% and incorrectly attributed to sunbeds.

Spray tanning is not just like applying makeup to your skin. The primary ingredient used in most spray-on tanning equipment today is called dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA, a colorless sugar, interacts with the outermost layer of the skin to darken skin color in a period of several hours. It takes about 12-24 hours for the DHA in your skin to reach its full tanning potential and a spray-on tan can last as long as 7-10 days. Some spray solution does include an instant bronzer to give instant results while the DHA darkens. Spray tanning does not offer any sunburn prevention.

The American Suntanning Association is a values-based coalition of suntan centers committed to teaching the vision of responsible and balanced sun care. For more information, visit