“I look thinner when I’m tan.” “My teeth are whiter and brighter when I’m tan.” “My skin imperfections like varicose veins and cellulite don’t show when I’m tan.” You may have heard these comments from friends or even said them yourself. It’s true, having a tan improves the visual appearance of the body, slimming your look, emphasizing characteristics and defining muscles. But what are the drawbacks of tanning beds? Namely, skin cancer. Most skin cancers are caused by harmful ultraviolet rays either from the sun or UV tanning beds. Indoor tanning can increase the risk of developing the 2 most common types of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma by 58% and basal cell carcinoma by 24%. Are tanning beds safe? Ultimately, no. There is no such thing as a safe tanning bed.

Proponents of tanning beds use often tout myths such as “a base tan before vacation prevents damage from the real sun” or “year-round tanning provides essential vitamin D necessary for good health” or “tanning beds are one of the best ways to improve mood and counteract seasonal affective disorder for those who do not live in sunny climates.” As research improves over time, we now know that securing a base tan to eliminate sunburns is untrue. Science has proven that a tan is in fact just as damaging as a sunburn since any tan is an indication of damage to the skin cells. Tanning beds not only age the skin with UVA light but the wavelengths that penetrate the skin during tanning bed use are strongly linked to melanoma. In a recent study of 63 women who were diagnosed with melanoma before age 30, 97% had used tanning beds. Vitamin D is essential for the body but the argument for tanning does not compute. In fact, the real answer to the vitamin D argument is natural sun because the UVB rays from the sun interact with protein in the skin to convert it to vitamin D, tanning beds mostly emit UVA rays. Vitamin D supplements are a great alternative to sun damage. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is absorbed best when paired with healthy high fat foods. Exercise, time in nature, light boxes that do not harm the skin or eyes, social activities, aromatherapy, vacations and vitamin D supplementation are responsible and safe ways to combat seasonal affective disorder and improve mood.

Alternatives to tanning beds include more cost-effective options like spray tanning or sunless self-tanners that will provide you with a stunning all-over glow with the harmful UV exposure and risk of skin cancer. For more information on protecting your skin, visit WEBSITE. To have your skin assessed for any abnormalities or sun damage, call THE CENTER for Advanced Dermatology at 602-867-7546.