Surprise! The Tanning Nasal Sprays Going Viral on TikTok Are Not Safe

There’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to TikTok beauty discoveries: look into it. So that’s precisely what I did after seeing a video for a “tanning nasal spray.” It features a young woman with the following text overlaid: “Who spends all their money on tanning nasal spray to avoid spending Thursdays scrubbing off fake tan?”

As a self-tanning fiend, paint me intrigued. But as a reporter, consider me skeptical. A quick Google brings up a bevy of nasal sprays that promise a golden tan. The sprays claim to increase melanin production in your skin — including very fair skin — and claim to make skin more tolerant to the sun. For best results, lay in the sun for a short amount of time. (Record scratch — their words, not mine.) The purported result is a semi-permanent tan that gradually fades over time, no scrubbing necessary.

But at the expense of potentially getting skin cancer from sun exposure? In the words of Justin Bieber, “Immediately no.” But where’s the education in that? With some sprays retailing for almost $200 and without much information — like, say, full ingredient lists — available on certain brand websites, it’s worth nosing around. Here’s what to sniff out about nasal tanning sprays.

What’s in tanning nasal spray?

Finding the INCI list for many of these sprays wasn’t as simple as it should be. One nasal spray that’s found popularity on TikTok includes water, natural flavors, dihydroxy methylchromonyl palmitate, and L-tyrosine. “[The nasal spray] purportedly increases the levels of [the amino acid] tyrosine, as well as the enzyme tyrosinase — both are needed to produce melanin — so that more melanin is produced and hence creates a tan,” explains New York-based cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson.

Florida-based cosmetic biochemist Krupa Koestline notes that we often find tyrosinase inhibitors in our skin-care products. “Azelaic acid, vitamin C, and tranexamic acid are regularly used in the cosmetic industry to treat hyperpigmentation and sun spots,” she says. Essentially: more tyrosine, more melanin.

Dihydroxy methylchromonyl palmitate is a self-tanning ingredient which helps increase melanin production when used topically. The ingredient was launched in pharmaceutical company Merck’s self-tanner, RonaCare Bronzyl. However, compared to the self-tanning ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which turns the outer layer of skin dark in a matter of hours, dihydroxy methylchromonyl palmitate can take as long as 10 days. This is likely one of the reasons you find DHA more commonly in topical self-tanning mousses, sprays, and foams.

Why are these sprays concerning?

Let’s get to the schnoz of it all. Are these ingredients safe to inhale in this manner?

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