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Airbrush Tanning: What You Need to Know

Concern over Internal Exposure Prompts Regulatory Action

Airbrush tanning  
Most everyone knows that UV rays from the sun—and from traditional tanning beds or booths—may be detrimental to your health.  But what about airbrush tanning?
Here is a quick look at what is known about the relatively new but growing practice and why the Health Licensing Office (HLO) and Board of Cosmetology have pursued regulation to protect consumers.

Why Regulate?  

Two reasons:
  1. Concerns over internal exposure to the spray solution used in airbrush tanning 
  2. Airbrush tanning fits the statutory definition of esthetics (“…The use of the hands or mechanical or electrical apparatuses or appliances for cleansing, stimulating, manipulating, exfoliating or applying lotions or creams…” to keep skin “…healthy and attractive….”) under Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 690.005 (6)(a-e)​​.

    How Dangerous?

    The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that the most widely used color additive in airbrush tanning solutions—dihydroxyacetone, or DHA—is restricted to external application.
    While DHA has been approved by the FDA for tanning since 1977, it shouldn’t be sprayed in or on the mouth, eyes or nose.  FDA officials, being cautious, state that DHA should not be ingested, inhaled or exposed to the eye area or mucous membranes because “the risks, if any, are unknown.”

    What Precautions?

    The FDA recommends protective measures for the eyes, nose and mucous membranes:
    1. Goggles for the eyes 
    2. Nose plug for nostrils 
    3. Ear plug for ears 
    4. Balm or other coating for lips
      Regulation Underway?  Yes.  However, OHLA and the Board of Cosmetology allowed for a transition period until the end of 2006 to provide practitioners time to gain the required education without causing undue hardship on existing airbrush tanning businesses and professionals.
      Oregon Health Authority, Public Health Division
      Regulates UV-Based Tanning
      Tanning beds for public, not private, use are regulated by the Oregon Health Authority, Public Health Division, Radiation Protection Services.

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      Certification Required if Practitioner Applies Solution Directly

      If you operate a “self-serve” tanning booth in which a practitioner does not directly provide the service (i.e. spray on the solution with a hand-held airbrush device), you are not required to be certified in esthetics nor do you need a cosmetology facility license.  However, we highly recommend you educate your customers about how to avoid inhalation/ingestion of the tanning spray solution.
      If you spray the tanning solution directly on the customer with a hand-held device, following are the steps you will need to take to become certified and the key requirements of certification:
      • Esthetics Training: Graduation from an Oregon private career school (clock-hour or competency) and a passing score on both practical and written examinations. 
      • Esthetics Certification: Certification as an esthetician in Oregon by January 1, 2007. HLO began actively enforcing the certification requirement in 2007. 
      • Licensed Facility: Employment in a licensed cosmetology facility. If you own a business that provides practitioner-delivered airbrush tanning, it must be a licensed cosmetology facility. 
      • Regulatory Requirements: Comply with all regulatory requirements as specified in Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) and Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) related to cosmetology and the practice of esthetics.
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      Public, Practitioner Education

      To provide the public and practitioners with comprehensive information related to the pending regulation of airbrush tanning in 2007, the Health Licensing Office and Board of Cosmetology launched an education campaign in 2006.
      The following materials were distributed to the approximately 700 existing tanning salons in Oregon and to the more than 4,000 licensed cosmetology facilities:
      Letter to Airbrush Tanning Practitioners 
      News Release to Media 
      Airbrush Tanning Fact Sheet
      Resources & Requirements for Practitioners  
      Airbrush Tanning Brochure 
      Questions or comments?  Contact HLO at 503-378-8667 or hlo.info@state.or.us.

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