Norvell Pres Responds to ABC Sunless Tanning Episode

The anticipated ABC story on spray tanning safety has now been aired. I expect there will be many thoughtful responses to the story from the spray tanning industry and the cosmetics industry in the coming days correcting the many errors in the report and providing incontrovertible evidence of the safety of spray tanning.  For the present, however, I would like to give you a brief overview of the information now available.

Perhaps the best place to start is the open letter which Norvell distributed on May 29, 2012, providing a summary of the situation as it existed at that time.  You may have received a copy.  If not, you may view the letter online

Moving on to the ABC report, the reporter relied heavily on a 2006 FDA Product Information Publication. The FDA Publication, while helpful, and which I recommend you read (it can be viewed online at, is wildly misconstrued and misrepresented by the reporter. In reviewing the publication, you should keep in mind the following:

  • The FDA Publication is not a finding that DHA and spray tanning are harmful. It points out that DHA, the ingredient in question, has long been accepted for topical application.  It is recommended users should take care to protect the eyes, the nose and lips. This approach has been embraced by Norvell. We provide products for customers to protect the potentially affected areas and encourage everyone to follow the recommendations. The important thing is that, contrary to the impression presented by the ABC reporter, the FDA has not found DHA used in spray tanning to be harmful.
  • The FDA Publication is not the most current information on this subject. A more comprehensive report published December 14, 2010, by the European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety is available online at While the study is lengthy, and should be reviewed in its entirety, I recommend that you at least take a look at the study’s conclusions on page 32. In summary, the report says that based upon the available information, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety considers that the use of DHA as a self-tanning agent in spray tanning up to a 14% concentration will not pose a risk to the health of the consumer. All Norvell spray products are at a concentration significantly less than 14%.
  • The reporter chose to acknowledge, but then ignore, a detailed letter sent to the reporter by Merck Pharmaceuticals pointing out the errors in one of the reporter’s key studies used in his report to reference the potential negative effects of DHA on DNA . I invite you to read the Merck Pharmaceuticals response here: Clearly, the reporter only wanted information which slanted the story in the direction he wanted to go.

While we are on the subject of the reporter’s point of view, I want to point out that the central issue is, and remains, consumer safety, and I have no doubt that ABC, and the reporter, are genuinely concerned about consumer safety. I think it is unfortunate, however, that the way this particular story was put together indicates that the reporter, while interested in safety, was more interested in sensationalism.  For example, I invite you to view industry spokesman Joe Levy’s YouTube presentation at  Joe explains the way in which his interview with the reporter was staged and then edited. Instead of being a good faith effort to obtain information on this subject, the interview turned out to be an “ambush” with the apparent goal being to present as sensational and unflattering a view of the sunless tanning industry as possible, no matter what the actual facts might be.

It is also noteworthy that the reporter chose to make no reference in the report to any of the major cosmetic companies, such as Neutrogena, Clinique, Banana Boat and many others, who have been selling aerosol cans of spray tanning products with DHA for years. These products are indistinguishable from the spray tanning industry products, yet not one word about those products. I am happy for those companies since their products, like our products, are safe. I am curious though, why, if the reporter truly believes our products are unsafe, he gave a pass to the major cosmetic companies.  At the risk of appearing cynical, I can’t help but think it may have been because it is much harder to ambush multi-million dollar advertisers on your network.

In summary, sunless spray tanning is safe. The best available research supports this conclusion. The ABC report is an aberration which is unfair to our industry and which will have no lasting effect. 

—Rick Norvell, President, Norvell Skin Solutions, LLC