Tanning Bed Dangers

Tanning Bed Dangers

May 03, 2024

A tan may give the appearance of healthy skin, but it actually damages your skin. And if you think a tanning salon is a better option than sunning outdoors, think again. There’s no such thing as healthy tanning.

Using tanning beds increases your risk of skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation: 

  • People who have used tanning beds have an 83% greater risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma and a 29% greater risk of developing basal cell carcinoma. 
  • Those who used a tanning bed before age 35 have a 75% greater risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The facts about UV radiation

Whether you get a tan at the beach or in a tanning bed, you expose your skin to ultraviolet (UV) rays, which damage your skin cells’ DNA. Cancer researchers believe this DNA damage is what causes most skin cancers. UV rays also cause premature aging, wrinkles, rashes and age spots.

There are two types of UV rays that can damage your skin and lead to skin cancer:

  • UVA. These rays cause your skin to tan and are often used in tanning booths. These rays cause long-term damage that can lead to wrinkles and some skin cancers.
  • UVB. Your body uses UVB rays to create vitamin D, but UVB also causes sunburns. According to the American Cancer Society, UVB rays are thought to be the cause of most skin cancers.

Why you shouldn’t go to tanning salons

The dangers of indoor tanning are indisputable. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists the UV radiation from tanning machines in the most dangerous cancer category for humans. This is the same category as cigarettes, asbestos and plutonium. As of 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires tanning machines to have a warning label that says no one under the age of 18 should use the product. Several states have also placed restrictions on tanning bed usage for minors.

If you are still considering indoor tanning, weigh these facts:

  • A base tan doesn’t protect your skin. You can still get a sunburn even with a base tan.
  • Indoor tanning can cause injuries. Every year, emergency rooms treat people for burns, loss of consciousness and eye injuries caused by indoor tanning.
  • Tanning ages your skin. Getting a tan causes premature wrinkles, age spots and loss of skin elasticity. It can also give your skin a leathery appearance. 
  • Tanning beds are just as harmful as outdoor tanning. Tanning beds expose you to intense UV rays, which damage your skin. There’s nothing special or safer about the rays in these machines.
  • Tanning salon staff may provide questionable information. In a study of 300 salons across the country, 78% of the salons claimed indoor tanning was beneficial for a fair-skinned teenage girl. Nearly all the salons in the study denied indoor tanning risks. Some even claimed outrageous benefits, like indoor tanning can prevent cancer, treat arthritis, promote weight loss and more.

Get a sun-kissed glow without the sun

Just because you protect your skin from UV radiation by wearing protective clothing or using a broad-spectrum sunscreen doesn’t mean you have to forgo tanned-looking skin. Self-tanners, applied at a salon or at home, can give you a natural-looking tan without damaging your skin.

The American Academy of Dermatology offers instructions for applying self-tanners to give you the best results. Self-tanners don't contain sunscreen, so you still need to protect your skin when you’re outside.

Tanning beds and tanning in the sun can damage your skin and increase your risk of cancer. Wearing protective clothing, choosing a sunscreen that is SPF30 or higher, and avoiding tanning salons are crucial for protecting your health.