Ban the Spray Tan? Possibly, if XFC Fighter Courtney Casey’s Protest Holds Up (video)

October 28, 2013
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Cortney-Casey-XFCIn the Inside MMA WTF Moment of the week, Bas Rutten and Kenny Rice take a look at the championship fight between Cortney Casey and Pearl Gonzalez at XFC 26, and the claim that Gonzalez used a banned substance… tanning oil.

Courtesy of AXS TV.

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  • Mark McDowall

    Thats almost as stupid as DC wanting Nelson to cut his beard because somehow it is an unfair advantage.

  • Lester Szurko

    My company manufacturers spray tanning equipment and solutions. There are two possibilities here. If the fighter with the spray tan had tanning solution applied before the fight it would definitely be obvious. A freshly applied spray tan is purely topical and contains cosmetic bronzers that do wash off in the shower.

    The way spray tanning works is quite simple. A tanning solution is sprayed all over the body either by an automated booth or sprayed on by a technician. The solution is water based. It has to be in order for it to work properly. However, not all solutions are the same consistency. Some brands are thicker and stickier than others. If the fighter just had a spray tan applied (the same day as the fight) without showering it off – as soon as the fighter started to perspire the tan would have literally bled off and it would be everywhere – on her clothes, on the mat, and all over the other fighter. It would be a sweaty-sticky mess as it would run and start to coagulate in sticky stripes across the body. Imagine a fighter covered in dry Coca-cola.

    If this was the case the opposite of her statements could be true. I have seen other solution brands that are extremely tacky. As the sweat evaporated the fighter’s skin would have become stickier. The opponent in some cases could actually have a better grip. To make the solution more slippery the product would have to be oil based. Or some type of oil would need to have been applied to the skins – perhaps an oily moisturizer. Oil and water don’t mix to well if at all. That is why water easily runs off a duck’s feathers, because the oils on the feathers make the duck water proof. However, you don’t put lotion over a freshly applied spray tan. It would ruin it. Let’s assume she did wear a freshly applied spray tan to the fight, could it have been an oil based spray tan?

    I am unaware of an oil based tanning spray in the market. If it does exist it would not work too well. DHA (dihydroxyacetone) is the main tanning ingredient in all sunless products. It is a solid powder that is usually dissolved in water based formulations. It will not dissolve in oil. DHA is not slippery. It is like powdered sugar. It would be odd to wear a freshly applied spray tan to a fight. However, I can’t dismiss that this was not the case. There is another explanation for the bleeding color. If the fighter did shower off her spray tan solution, she could have had what some people call “oxidized sweat.” It looks like brassy colored perspiration.

    Like water that comes out of old rusty pipes, it can look like yellow or orange colored sweat. Some people think they are literally sweating tanning solution – which is possible if the solution is not rinsed off properly. The skin can act like a sponge if it is really dry. But there is also another reason for colored sweat.

    DHA is not a dye. It chemically reacts with the amino acids in the skin. The skin cells literally change color naturally. The process is similar to the way professionals in the food industry brown bread or beer. They do not stain it. It is a natural reaction when the sugar molecules react with the amino acids in the food product. It is called the maillard reaction.

    See here:

    The same reaction can happen on the skin. This reaction has some natural by-products. For instance in some cases the skin can smell a little starchy. And in the other cases there can be some color discharge from excessive sweat. This is not anything that would cause a fighter to be more slippery than usual. As excessive activity takes place, more calories are burned and body heat goes up, and in order to cool it down the body can rapidly discharge a salty perspiration which will mildly erode skin particles and carry them away. Since the cells have changed to a tan like color and are no longer translucent they can be seen in the sweat and it appears as if the sweat is stained. The color make the sweat look like diluted off-colored tanning solution. Picture a jar of sweat with a drop of orange food coloring.

    However, there would be no difference in the nature of the sweat other than its color. Those particles would be there regardless accept harder to see – like clear ice in clear water.

    The tanned fighter would not be anymore slippery than they usually are. To avoid this color discharge is quite simple. It is important to rinse off the tanning solution using a soft cloth and liquid soap, pressing lightly on the skin as if smoothly polishing your tan, but being careful not to scrub away the skin.

    Here is the most likely scenario and why the losing fighter may have wrongly associated the spray tan as being the cause of her losing the fight. In order for a tan to last longer, it is recommended that anyone wishing to spray tan should exfoliate their skin up to 24 hours before the application. This means to buff away all the old skin cells. Old skin cells fall off faster. They can cause your tan to fade uneven and prematurely. By exfoliating you are actually polishing your skin and microscopically smoothing it out. Then by the time the newly exposed cells are ready to fall off the tan has already lasted about 7-10 days on people engaging in normal activity. For a fighter it may only last 4-6 days because of the aggressive training. Either way, it is also recommended to use a moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated and soft.

    In conclusion, the spray tan was probably not the cause of the slippery skin as explained by Casey. Actually any fighter can feel more slippery before a fight without the use of slippery add-on substances. It is as simple as keeping your skin healthy, soft, and buffed. The skin is made up of oil and water layers.

    Our natural oil layers help cover the water layers to keep them from evaporating too quickly. When perspiration is excreted on top of the body’s natural oils combined with super smooth skin, it can be quite slippery. So if the winning fighter did properly prepare for her spray tan, her skin would have been buffed down a day or two before the fight. The smooth skin plus the fighter’s natural oil layers made her feel more slippery as her perspiration coated her skins surface.

    She may have has oxidized sweat as mentioned earlier or she may have worn the actual spray tan in the ring. I can’t be sure. We will leave that up to the authorities. Having a spray tan on while fighting, while gross looking, would have most likely resulted in a sticky mess and not made the fighter more slippery. The important thing here is to get the facts to the judges so they don’t make the wrong conclusion. If I were the judges, I would defiantly ban wearing freshly applied tanning solution in the ring. However, I would not ban it if the contestant has showered it off and all that is left is the colored skin. It is easy to test. An official can just take a wet white towel and rub the skin. Even the slightest rub will discolor the towel brown. If Casey wants a more fair fight she could also exfoliate and moisturize before her rematch. Not only will this even the playing field but it is healthy for the skin.

    I wish both fighters good luck on their next fight. If any fighter would like more information on how to get the most realistic looking tan and for a list of authorized salons in their area they are welcomed to visit us on our website for more information. Anyone interested can also call us and we will be happy to e-mail you a list the DOs and DONTs of spray tanning and how to care for your spray tan to avoid situations like this. I hope the information was helpful. I am open to any comments or questions.

    Lester Szurko, CEO
    Fantasy Tan
    1-888-FAN-TANS (326-8267)