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As winter approaches, tanning beds becomes a popular option for maintaining that summer glow. In fact, a lot of people think tanning salons are actually a safer alternative than sunbathing. But that’s just pure myth.

The truth is, if you tan at a salon – you’ve got to stop right now!

Now, I’m not here to totally rain on your parade. And, I don’t want you to think you shouldn’t be able to have beautiful, sun-kissed skin. But a tanning bed just isn’t the healthiest way to achieve that look.

Here’s why –

Though Tanning Beds are Popular – They’re Potentially Deadly

In fact, research shows that younger adult women and teenagers use tanning beds on a regular basis.1 One of the main reasons, of course, is that they think they look better with a tan. But they’re mistaken if they think they can escape the dangers of UV (ultraviolet) rays by tanning indoors.

For one thing, tanning beds emit UV rays … just like the sun – and they’re just as dangerous.

In fact, tanning in a salon not only leads to skin damage, but it can cause deeper and more dangerous kinds of skin issues. Some researchers even believe UV rays change the DNA in your skin cells. And this danger is so pronounced, several states have even banned minors from going to tanning salons.2

So, what are the major health and beauty risks of indoor tanning?

tanning salon premature aging
Well, for starters, there are beauty risks, like –

  • The appearance of increased skin wrinkling
  • Coarse or dry skin
  • Sunspots or uneven pigmentation
  • Premature skin aging3

But, beyond what can happen to the look of your skin, there are worrisome health effects, not the least of which are –

  • Tanning addiction
  • Immune suppression
  • Eye damage, like cataracts
  • Skin cancer4

And the crazy thing about these risks, is that you only need to go tanning ONCE in a tanning bed to increase your risk of developing some of these health issues.5 So, again, if you’re tanning regularly, or even considering tanning indoors, please think again.

The Harm Tanning Can Cause

It makes sense that indoor tanning might be harmful because, just like the sun, tanning beds expose users to UVA and UVB rays. Unfortunately, both kinds of rays can cause permanent damage to your skin. Here are just a few of the issues than can arise through the use of tanning beds:

1. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) – BCC typically affects people with fair skin. But anyone can develop this disease, no matter what type of skin you have. BCC is usually characterized by a pink skin patch or a flesh-colored bump that looks similar to a pearl. And while BCC can form anywhere, it is most common on the arms, neck, and head.6

The good news is that the chances of recovery are good if BCC is diagnosed quickly.

2. Squamous cell carcinoma – Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) can also affect anyone, regardless of whether your skin is fair or dark. It usually appears as a scaly patch of skin or a firm, red bump. But it can also appear as a sore that seems to heal, but then reopens again.

Most of the time, it is not life threatening. SCC can form on the neck, arms, face, ears, or any area of your body that receives UV exposure. Again, it can be successfully treated if detected early enough, which may keep it from moving to other parts of the body.7

3. Melanoma – Melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer. It usually appears as a dark spot or mole and must be detected early to increase survival chances.8

Scientific Evidence

Now, some people assume that newer tanning beds are safer, but again … they couldn’t be more wrong. According to a recent study, the risk of UV radiation is just as high, and newer technology is not safer than older technology.9

And the consequences of indoor tanning are scary enough. But the numbers of people who tan regularly are even more concerning.

For example, a whopping 16 percent of girls in the 12th grade tan indoors, as do 11 percent of all high school age girls.10

What’s the Attraction?

tanning bed dangersFor whatever reason, many people believe that when someone has a tan, they are not only more attractive, but also healthier. While the former might be up for debate, there’s no question the latter is wrong.

Pay attention: A tan is not a sign of health.

In fact, when the body tans, it does so because it’s suffered damage from UV radiation. Tanned skin is damaged skin, not healthy skin.

There are some proponents of indoor tanning who claim that it provides a safe and effective way to get vitamin D. It is true that getting enough of this essential vitamin is important. But you don’t need to risk your skin health in the process. You can get plenty of vitamin D through supplements. Also, wild-caught fish – especially herring, catfish, salmon, and trout – is another great source of vitamin D.11

The Last Word

In the end, there really is no reason at all to use a tanning bed. Absolutely none.

Not only does it prematurely age your skin, it greatly increases your risk of developing dangerous skin issues. You might think it makes you look more attractive, but all you’re doing is setting yourself up for potentially devastating long-term skin damage.

Instead, here are few alternatives to tanning beds:

1. Try a bronzer on your face or body

2. Test out a self-tanning cream or spray.

Both these options offer color with no skin damaging side-effects.

Here’s to your truly healthy glow!

For more tips on looking your best, keep reading here:

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Skin



About the Author

Dr. Payman Danielpour

Dr. Payman Danielpour grew up in Beverly Hills, California, where he first developed his passion for community service. A standout student during his undergraduate education, Dr. Danielpour went on to attend medical school at The Chicago Medical School, and trained in surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center.