You can often pick them out of a crowd—those people (and they’re not just women) who regularly visit tanning beds. It’s the dead of winter and their skin looks like it’s not missed a single day of summer sun. Their tan may be an abnormal shade of bronze or their skin may be prematurely wrinkled. While tanned skin is considered beautiful by many cultures, it comes at a price.
Tanning salons offer their customers a quick way to get that tanned look without the hassle of lying in the sun for hours on end. But tanning salon visits don’t always end on a happy note.
You may want to think twice before laying on that bed. It’s not just bright lights that beam down on you.
A Known Carcinogen
Like the sun, the bright lights installed in indoor tanning equipment emit ultraviolet radiation. It’s this type of radiation that’s known to cause cancer. The radiation from tanning beds may even be stronger than the sun’s. This ultraviolet radiation, which streams down on your exposed skin, damages the DNA in your skin cells. Numerous studies have shown that those who frequent tanning salons are at an increased risk for both melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) and non-melanoma skin cancer.
In the United States alone, more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer each year are traced back to indoor tanning. Across the globe, you have a nearly 60 percent increased risk for melanoma if you’ve used a tanning bed just one time in your life, and the risk goes up every time you go.
Doesn’t Stop There
It’s not just cancer you need to fear. A trip to the tanning salon is one of the fastest ways to move toward premature aging of the skin. Wrinkles, leathery skin, and age spots aren’t always natural. Sometimes, you can get assistance from fake-baking.
Additionally, if proper eye protection isn’t worn, the UV rays can cause irreversible eye damage. From burning of the eyes to cataracts and even eye cancer, the tanning bed puts your precious peepers at risk. UV-B radiation harms your immune system and your skin’s ability to fight disease. Also, some people develop red, itchy rashes when exposed to the UV-A rays.
Beware the Lies
When it comes to indoor tanning, there are countless myths surrounding the practice. Don’t buy into the following:
- It’s Not Addictive. Dangerous as it is, indoor tanning can become addictive for certain individuals. With the risk of losing money and your health, getting started with indoor tanning is not a good idea—especially if you’re prone to addictive behaviors.
- You Need the Vitamin D. Regardless of your personality, don’t make the excuse you’re trying to get vitamin D. A few minutes in the sun plus eating a healthy diet can provide all the vitamin D your body needs.
- It’s Safer than the Sun. Despite appearances, tanning beds are not safer than tanning in the sun. Both are dangerous. Indoor tanning just does the job faster. Keep in mind that just because you don’t burn during indoor tanning doesn’t mean you’re immune to the damage caused by the harmful rays, and a base tan from a tanning bed doesn’t protect you from other harmful tans.
- They’ve Gotten Better. Newer model tanning beds might cost more to use, but they are not safer than older beds. Both emit harmful rays and should be avoided for your skin’s sake!
Follow the Rules
Currently, Australia and Brazil have laws that ban indoor tanning altogether. Several states and numerous countries have laws that prohibit anyone under the age of 17 or 18 from using indoor tanning. Some countries or states will give permission with a doctor’s prescription, and others require a parent’s permission or that a minor be accompanied by a parent in order to use indoor tanning.
These rules are in place to help individuals use tanning beds wisely, but the wisest use for most healthy people is no use at all!