DHA (dihydroxyacetone) is the most commonly used self-tanning ingredient. It works by chemically reacting with the amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) in the dead layer of the skin's surface and causes a colour change, which results in the 'tan' effect.
DHA has undergone two in-depth safety reviews by the European Commission's independent expert scientific committee (the SCCS), which advises the Commission on scientific matters and the safety of cosmetic ingredients. The SCCS looked at data to support the use of DHA in cosmetic formulations, and also specifically its use in spray cabins, and confirmed that DHA is safe in cosmetic products.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also approved DHA as a colour ingredient in self-tanning products.
Occasionally media reports circulate, usually originating in the US, which question the safety of DHA when used in cosmetic products, and in particular in spray tans. Some even wrongly suggest a link between DHA and cancer. There are no links between the use of DHA and cancer and all cosmetic products available in the UK are subject to strict cosmetic safety laws.
It is important to remember though that self-tanning products don't normally contain any sunscreens - so do not forget to also use sun protection when going out in the sun.