Women who use fake tan could put themselves at an increased risk of fertility problems and having babies with birth defects, according to experts.
Although seen as a safe alternative to sunbeds, the products can contain a ‘cocktail’ of chemicals which may pose a risk to health – and can even cause cancer. Among the dangerous ingredients found in fake tan are hormone-disrupting compounds, which can affect the healthy development of babies. The products often also contain carcinogens, including formaldehyde and nitrosamines, as well as skin irritants and chemicals linked to allergies, diabetes, obesity and fertility problems.
The potentially dangerous effects of fake tan are thought to be more worrying than for other cosmetics as it is applied over the whole body regularly.
Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the European Environment Agency, said the chemicals it contains ‘may be a contributing factor behind the significant increases in cancers, diabetes, obesity and falling fertility’.
‘It’s the cocktail effect,’ she said, adding that a ‘precautionary approach’ to many of the chemicals would be sensible ‘until their effects are more fully understood’.
Elizabeth Salter-Green, of UK charity the Chem Trust, warned: ‘Many of the chemicals in fake tan are toxic to reproduction and can harm a foetus.
Although no tests have been carried out on humans showing that they are harmful or cancerous, researchers in the US have expressed fears about the safety of tanning products.
Dr Lynn Goldman, dean of the School of Public Health and Health Services at George Washington University, in Washington DC, said: ‘What we’re concerned about is not so much that reaction that creates the tanning, but reactions that may occur deeper down with living cells that might then change DNA, causing a mutation, and what the possible impacts of that might be.’The active ingredient in fake tanning products is dihydroxyacetone, which reacts with the amino acids on the skin to turn it brown. When it is sprayed on to the body, it is often inhaled and absorbed into the bloodstream. Scientists say it could damage DNA and cause tumours. They also claim the chemical may worsen asthma and other lung problems, such as emphysema.
Sales of tanning products were worth around £100million a year in Britain in 2010. One in ten British men and four in ten women say they use them. Alyson Hogg, of Vita Liberata, a UK firm that has developed a fake tan free from potentially dangerous chemicals, said firms used them as they were ‘cheap and easy’.
But cosmetics manufacturers insisted all ingredients used were safe. Dr Chris Flower, director general of the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association, said: ‘There are stringent EU laws covering the manufacture of cosmetic products.’