Tanning Beds – Are They Safe?

by | Jul 31, 2020 | Blog, Skin Cancer

With summer at its peak, we know most of you are out and about, flaunting your beautiful, glowing skin, and getting in a healthy dose of the sun. And we also know that many of you will be tempted to pay a visit to the tanning salon, or get an indoors tan, before leaving for that beach vacay. However, as a dermatologist, my advice to you is to reconsider this idea because tanning beds can harm your skin. 

In this article we explain all the reasons why indoor tanning is not only harmful, but outright dangerous for you, we also bust all the myths about tanning beds, and then we suggest some great alternatives for getting that tanned look without harming your skin. So, read on!

Consult an online dermatologist today and get an answer on your skin concern within hours.



Tanning Process 

Sun tanning is a process whereby skin colour is darkened or tanned. The darker colour we see is due to the increased release of melanin pigment, the pigment which gives colour to our skin. Tanning is caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. It can also cause light-induced genetic damage to cells on your outermost layer of skin. The skin tries to prevent further injury by producing melanin that results in darkening – what we call a tan.

As you can see, the process can be quite harmful for the skin. The damage caused by tanning is cumulative, starting from the very first time you decide to get a tan. A review by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that first exposure to sunbeds before the age of 35 years increases the risk of melanoma by 75 per cent. Further exposure would then be cumulative. Tanning beds are banned for use below the age of 18 in many countries.

Consult an online dermatologist today and get an answer on your skin concern within hours.



Facts and common myths

  1.   Tanning substantially increases your risk of developing cancer, right from the very first time you decide to get a tan with a tanning bed, and then cumulatively increases the risk with every subsequent tan.
  2.   People with pale skin, freckles, and red hair are at an even greater risk of cancer after exposure to tanning.
  3.   Tanning does not help to correct vitamin D deficiencies. The vitamin D requirement is much higher and cannot be met by a single tan.
  4.   You can develop skin sun damage, scars, and blisters if the indoor tanning treatment is not done correctly.
  5.   You will age faster due a process known as photoaging, which is accelerated by tanning. Your skin will develop wrinkles, fine lines, and lose elasticity earlier due to damage with the UV radiation.
  6. Wearing sunscreen does not protect against the harmful effects of indoor tanning, as most sunscreens are designed to protect against natural sunlight. The amount of radiation with indoor tanning is usually much stronger and higher. 
  7. Getting a base tan before going for a beach holiday is not protective for your skin. It is in fact more harmful.


While you may have been told that indoor tanning is a safer alternative than being out in the sun, that is in fact completely untrue. 

Tanning beds use ultraviolet lamps to emit UV light, and the levels of UVA and UVB radiation are much higher than the levels in normal summer light. Also, when people use tanning beds, their skin is exposed up to 90% to the radiation, which is much more than the amount of exposure when we are outdoors, due to the presence of clothing. 

Hence, an indoor tan session can actually be even more harmful than getting a tan the natural way. However, that does not mean that getting a tan by being out in the sun is safe.

Tanning in itself, whether from artificial light or natural sunlight, is harmful for your skin and increases skin cancer risk. 

So, what are the safer alternatives, to get that healthy tanned look?

  1.   Use body oils to have glowing, moisturized, healthy skin.
  2.   Use self-tanning sprays or lotions. If applied accurately, these sunless tanning lotions are much safer than tanning beds and will not harm your skin.
  3.   Use a bronzer.


If you have any concern with your skin, our recommendation is to speak with a professional. To save money and waiting times use our online dermatology service and we can get you checked by a professional within hours.

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