As students settle themselves into new classrooms and spend more
time indoors, those hard-earned tans of summer will begin to fade
away under the glowing fluorescent lights in lecture halls.
With the days of lounging at the beach behind them, students
need not fear losing their beloved tans. With tanning salons having
turned a new corner of technology, the latest trend in staying
bronzed is Mystic Tan, the first spray-on tanning method to hit the
Originally developed by Tom Laughlin and Troy Cooper in 1995,
Mystic Tan is most commonly referred to as a “spray-on tan” today.
It leaves streaky lotions, tanning beds and cancer-causing
ultraviolet rays behind. Instead, users step into a Mystic Tan
booth that resembles a shower where a tanning mist is sprayed,
according to the company’s Web site.
Since the booth is private, most tanners wear only a shower cap.
If a user chooses to wear a bathing suit or underwear, be aware
that the tanning ingredient, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), may
permanently stain the garments. For best results, exfoliate skin
and moisturize with an oil-free lotion beforehand.
The entire spraying process takes about 30 seconds. After
exiting the booth, clients towel-dry just as they would after
stepping out of the shower.
To keep the tan for as long as possible, users should wait four
to six hours after being sprayed before taking a shower and should
avoid exfoliating the skin. Although Mystic Tan usually lasts about
a week, the company warns that exposure to saltwater and chlorine
can cause the tan to fade faster.
“I’d say it’s a good idea to get a spray-on tan if you needed to
look good for some event and needed to get rid of tan lines,” said
Cal State Fullerton radio-TV-film major Kim Klingaman, 20. “It’s
also better to have a spray-on tan rather than ‘fake and
bake’because [spray-on tan] hasn’t been proven to cause skin
cancer, like the tanning booths or sun do.”
When using a tanning bed, there is an increased risk of
melanoma, the most serious form of cancer, said Dr. Julie Hodge, a
dermatologist at St. Jude Hospital in Fullerton.
“It’s a problem that people are tanning at such young ages, like
20,” Hodge said. “That increases the impact for melanoma.”
Of the two types of ultraviolet rays, UVA rays from tanning
booths are the long wavelengths of radiation that, over time,
deteriorate collagen fibers and cause wrinkles, Hodge said. UVA
rays can also cause brown spots to appear on the skin, hurting the
elasticity of it.
To protect skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays,
Hodge suggests wearing sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher.
As a swim instructor, Klingaman remembers to wear sunscreen, but
has never found the need to have a spray-on tan herself. However,
Klingaman attests that her friends have experienced the Mystic Tan
“After a couple of my friends did it, they told me they felt
stupid because they had to stand in a room naked and be in all
these positions to make sure the spray got on their body.”
Sound like a funny “Friends” episode? That’s because the
long-running NBC show aired an episode titled “The One With Ross’s
Tan” in 2003.
“It was hilarious,” Klingaman said. “[Because his spray-on tan
went wrong] it made me think that if you do it, you’re going to
Through MagneTan technology tanners should be able to receive an
even, natural-looking tan, but the company warns that without
proper care like moisturizing daily the desired color
can start to vary.
“One of my friends forgot to put lotion on and she had spots of
orange,” Klingaman said. “She had really large spots on her
Additionally, cost and upkeep are two more reasons to pause
before going in for a spray.
“The one time I had a spray-on tan done it cost $20,” said Anna
Huemoller, a CSUF alumna. “That’s one reason I don’t keep up with
Prices for spray-on tans usually range from $14 to $25 per
session, and to keep up the tan completely, patrons usually need to
visit the tanning salon every week or so.
Another caution about Mystic Tan relates to the DHA found in the
Although the Food and Drug Administration has approved DHA as an
agent in self-tanning lotions for over 30 years, it has yet to test
the effects DHA has on eyes or nasal passages.
The company notes that results of tests conducted by a third
party show the mist containing DHA does not cause eye or skin
irritation, nor is it harmful if a moderate amount is inhaled.
Nevertheless, Mystic Tan, Inc. and the FDA recommend that users
cover their eyes with standard UV tanning eyewear, protect lips
with lip balm and protect nasal passages, as stated on the
company’s Web site.
To Hodge, spray-on tanning is a better alternative to lying in
tanning beds or having high exposure to the sun.
“[Spray-on tan] is fine as long as people aren’t confident that
it protects against UV rays. People still need to use sunscreen,”
Hodge said. “It’s still much better to spray on a tan than to
actually expose yourself to harmful rays.”