Spray tanning danger: FDA says DHA may damage DNA

An ABC News investigation uncovered a potential danger with spray tanning.

Spray tans are advertised as safer than tanning beds.

But a new report claims the main chemical found inside that spray - DHA - is potentially hazardous when inhaled.

DHA is the chemical that turns your skin brown, but it's only approved for external use, like lotions, not as a spray.

The concern is you might inhale it.

But, there are alternatives.

"Some of the DHA if inhaled can cause damage to cells and possibly lead to cancer," says Dr. Howard Brooks, a dermatologist.

So far, studies haven't been conducted on humans, but the FDA says the chemical DHA should not be inhaled or ingested.

That's a risk found at many spray tan salons not offering face protection.

At Nectar in Georgetown, owner Brian Thomas offers the organic alternative spray tan called Chocolate Sun.

"What's different in ours is you leave here you don't have a smell," Thomas says. "There's no chemical, no alcohol, no smell and so it's a much cleaner natural product."

And two kinds of ventilators protect people from inhaling the product.

"Does chocolate sun contain DHA at all? It does. But the difference between our DHA and those found at other places is ours is naturally derived. It all comes from beets," Thomas says.

In the common spray tan, medical experts are concerned about potential DNA damage which could lead to birth defects.

"I think right now there's not enough data out there to say specifically it can lead to cancer," Brooks says.

The organic alternative for a spray tan might be better for you and costs around the same as the more commonly offered spray tan.