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Risks of Tanning Beds

Risks Of Tanning Beds

Salons that offer tanning services promise consumers a “healthy” bronzy glow that they can show off during summer or at the beach. Unfortunately, that “glow” is your skin’s response to dangerous ultraviolet rays that can result in DNA injury in your skin cells. When the cells of your skin are exposed to UV rays, they respond by producing more melanin, the pigment that makes your skin darker, resulting to a tan.

tanning bed

A myth that has spread like a wildfire in recent years has been “there is a safe or healthy tanning”. Such information is false. Instead, tanning whether inside or outdoors is bad as, if not worse than, being in the sun.

There are two types of UV radiation that penetrate the skin. They are UV-B and UV-A rays.

  • UV-B rays penetrate the top layers of skin and are most responsible for sunburns and play the larger role in skin cancer formation.
  • UV-A rays penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin and are often associated with allergic reactions, such as a rash. It also plays a greater role in premature skin aging by causing wrinkles.

Both UV-B and UV-A rays damage the skin and can lead to skin cancer. Tanning lamps and beds in salons that emit both UV-A and UV-B radiation.

uvb and uva rays penetrate the skin

Tanning damages your skin cells, makes your skin age prematurely, and increases your risk of skin cancers- basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. It is best to avoid tanning beds altogether.

Risks of Tanning Beds

Eye risks

Using a tanning bed put your eyes at risk for eye diseases. These include cataracts and ocular melanoma. With cataract, one has cloudy, blurred, and dim vision and if left untreated, can lead to vision loss. Ocular melanoma is a malignant tumor in the cells of the eye that produce melanin.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, tanning beds produce 100 times more UV levels, or the expected intensity of ultraviolet radiation, than what you would get from the sun. This can cause severe damage to the external and internal structures of your eyes and eyelids. Hence, use of tanning beds should be totally avoided to protect your eyes from harmful UV exposure.

Premature aging

This is quite an irony because while people try to tan to look good, tanning speeds up the tell-tale signs of aging. The more exposure you get to the harmful UV rays emitted by tanning beds, the more your skin gets damaged and photoaging process happens.

Our skin has two important proteins in its connective tissue. They are collagen and elastin. Collagen is the basic structural protein (like the building block) of our skin and can withstand stretching. The second key protein is elastin. It is responsible for the skin’s elastic properties and its ability to return to its original position after being stretched. These two protein thus make us look younger and fresh.

Tanning beds emit UVA rays which enter deep into our skin and destroy these two proteins, thus leaving your skin with dark spots (or age spots) and looking wrinkled. These changes can be very expensive to reverse, repair, and manage in later years. One important way to prevent skin damage is judicious use of sunscreen.

Risk of developing skin cancer

Statistics show that there are more skin cancer cases because of indoor tanning than there are lung cancer cases from smoking. It also stated that one in five people in the United States will develop cancer by age 70.

Studies have shown that the use of tanning beds increases the risk for all forms of skin cancers. Just one indoor tanning session can increase your risk for developing basal cell carcinoma by 29%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67%, and melanoma by 20%. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports your risk for developing melanoma increases by 75% from just one indoor tanning session before you are 35 years old.

types of skin cancer

Melanoma is the rarest but the deadliest form of skin cancer and can spread to any organ. If diagnosed early, melanoma is highly treatable. It starts as a mole that is often different from other types. To identify a mole that may be melanoma, use the ABCDEs:

  • Asymmetry:  The mole is usually not uniform, one sides looks different from the other side.
  • Borders: The borders of the mole are irregular, uneven, and may have indentations or projections.
  • Color: The mole may have different colors and patterns.
  • Diameter: Moles are usually 6mm or bigger than 6 mm.
  • Evolution: The mole may change color, texture, size, pattern, and may bleed.

To prevent skin cancers, it is best you avoid indoor tanning beds.


Our skin on exposure to UV radiation, responds by producing more melanin to give you the extra darker color of a tan. But it can sunburn

Sunburn is red, painful skin that feels hot or warm to touch and often appears within a few hours after too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from sunshine or artificial sources, such as tanning beds, indoor tanning equipment, and sunlamps.

Indoor tanning with tanning beds and sunlamps produce UV light and can cause sunburn. Repeated and prolonged UV exposure can increase risk for skin damage, dark spots, leathery skin, wrinkled skin, and skin cancers.

Immune suppression

Exposure to UVB rays may suppress the ability of your body’s immune system to fight infections, toxins, and process of other diseases. The skin’s natural defenses become lower, leaving you susceptible to diseases including skin disorders and skin cancer.

Allergic reaction

While some people are naturally sensitive to UV radiation emitted from tanning beds, immune suppression caused by UVB rays can make people develop allergic reactions to UV radiation. This is known as photosensitivity and might make people who use tanning beds develop rash, bumps, blisters, red patches, hives, and other side effects.

rash and itchiness


 Studies show that people who undergo indoor tanning have high likelihood of becoming addicted. In a study, about 20% to 30% of the female respondents said they found it hard to stop tanning. Also, when they did not get a consistent dose of UV rays, they became depressed and fidgety.

This is because exposure to the sun UV light releases endorphins, that is “feel-good” hormones in our body. These chemical substances act like a drug, and make UV radiation addictive. This is not a good development as intense and frequent exposure to UV rays can cause skin damage and skin cancer.

Alternative to using a tanning bed

People, old and young, male and female should avoid indoor tanning. Do not substitute tanning indoors for tanning outdoors. Staying for long periods under the sun is not good for your skin either. If you are outdoors on a sunny day, wear protective clothing. Put on sunscreen every day, even on days when it is rainy or cloudy. You may ask what are the alternatives to using a tanning bed that will produce a tanned skin. the answer is sunless or self tanning.


As the name implies, this form of tanning eliminates the sun or use of UV radiation. To have a tanned but healthy skin, choose a self-tanning product that contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as its active ingredient. Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is safe to use.

sunless tanning

Self-tanning products come in various forms including lotions, foams, creams, sprays, and wipes. They are usually fast-acting and give you a tanned look within hours without increasing your risk of developing early wrinkles, leathery skin, and skin cancer.

Please note that using a self-tanner will not protect your skin from the sun. Hence, it is important you wear a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, SPF 30 or higher.

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