Is Indoor Tanning Safe?
Some people say:
"Why would I tan?"
"Tanning hurts your skin"
"Tanning is super unhealthy"
"It has no benefits at all"
Sure, I get your sentiment...
Governments and health institutions have been cracking down on tanning beds for years. So answering the question "are tanning beds safe?" is kind of easy:
These are common statements and it's easy to see why.
For so long government institutions have been saying tanning is unhealthy and unsafe. Most people don't even question it, simply saying:
"There's too much proof against it"
"The government knows more than you or I"
"Isn't the answer obvious?"
But, is this really the right mindset to have? To just accept what you're told without doing any thinking for yourself?
We won't be discussing the superficial effects of tanning in this article. We'll only be talking about the effects on your health and the risks associated with indoor tanning
When tanning, your goal should be to maximize the benefits and reduce the risks.
One shouldn't tan only for superficial reasons, otherwise you're liable to turn your skin into a big old piece of leather.
Humans create Vitamin D through the absorption of UV light through our skin. We also gain Vitamin D through the consumption of animals. Vitamin D supplements are a more recent invention.
Tanning beds, just like the sun, emit UV light that is absorbed by your skin, creating Vitamin D.
UV Light can also help you relax, make you feel energized and put you in a better mood.
Did you know that 40-60% of the world is deficient in Vitamin D? Even those living in the equator can have this issue.
Rather than recommend getting out in the sunlight or going to a tanning salon, most doctors simply recommend getting some Vitamin D supplements and call it a day.
That's great and all, but Vitamin D supplements can't replace all the benefits you're missing out on from actual UV light exposure.
So the question is:
Is tanning as bad as they say?
In the 20th century UV lamps were used in the prevention of many conditions including tuberculosis
In the 70's and 80's sunscreens started being heavily promoted, along with vitamin D. Around this same time there was also an upsurge in the prescription of antibiotics.
As you know, sunblock blocks ultraviolet rays from reaching your skin.
Suddenly, UV light was being promoted as being dangerous. Things have gone so far as to have health institutions recommending that you have absolutely no exposure to UV light!
A core tenant of the "no UV light" recommendation is that tanning beds are unhealthy.
Skin cancer is almost completely caused by sunlight exposure and tanning bed use, according to the dominant narrative.
You should only get your vitamin D from pills, as it was naturally meant to be.
The issue is, the facts don't add up
Ever since the 70's and 80's "sunscreen revolution" melanoma rates have been rising, while UV exposure rates have been decreasing.
In 1910, most jobs were outdoors while no sunscreen was used. Today, most jobs are indoors, and people slather on sunscreen whenever they leave the house. Skin cancer rates have been going up since then.
Outdoor workers have 3-9 times as much ultraviolet light exposure than indoor workers. And yet, even today, outdoor workers have up to half the melanoma risk of indoor workers.
And even when you factor in that tanning bed usage rates have been decreasing, skin cancer rates are still increasing.
In the end, UV light alone cannot be the sole issue in this argument.
So what's the solution?
Getting exposed to UV light in moderate quantities is far better than receiving no UV light at all. There are, however, some easy pointers to follow.
Sunburns are the real enemy, damaging skin and creating free radicals that can cause cancer.
Not receiving any UV for most of the year (ie winter, fall, parts of spring) and then going tanning in the sun for long periods of time is dangerous and will damage your skin.
Don't start off with the strongest tanning beds you can find, as doing so will increase your chances of getting burnt.
Being malnourished or vitamin deficient is definitely a negative if you're trying to tan.
Sunscreen itself actually contains compounds that have been found to be cancer causing.
The best way to manage your UV exposure is to do so routinely and with moderation. The more variance there is in your UV exposure the less helpful it will be.
If you're not getting any UV exposure in the late, and then start tanning in the spring, your chances of getting burnt go much higher. Balance is key.
Therefore, tanning beds are healthy in moderation, especially during seasons with low natural UV exposure.
Tanning beds are best used when sunlight is really weak at your location. When the sun only moves low in the sky, no vitamin D will be created in your skin as a response to UV light exposure.