What Causes Tanning?
Tanning, or the visible darkening and deepening of the skin, results from exposure of the skin to ultraviolet (UV) radiation either from the sun or from tanning beds and tanning booths. This exposure causes genetic damage to the skin and cells on the outermost skin layer, or the epidermis. As the radiation damages the skin, the skin protects itself from further injury by producing melanin (the pigment that gives skin color) and darkening (what we know as a tan). Thus, the damages of tanning are cumulative, starting from the very first tan.
Is Tanning Bad For You?
Yes. There are many factors at stake when it comes to tanning, both outdoors and indoors. In terms of health, the Skin Cancer Foundation points to the fact that unprotected skin exposure to UV radiation is responsible for one in five Americans developing skin cancer by 70. In addition to skin cancer, the degeneration of cells and the accumulated skin damage which results from tanning changes and ages the skin. Tanning is an apparent sign of skin damage that expedites the visible signals of aging, including the appearance of wrinkles, weathered skin, pigmentation issues, and the loss of skin elasticity and collagen. For those who develop skin cancer, the risk of developing additional unsightly changes to their appearance is significantly increased.
What Are The Dangers Of Tanning Beds?
Patients might think that indoor tanning is safer than outdoor tanning. However, this is a dangerous myth. Tanning beds can increase your risk for skin cancer, damage and deplete your immune system, cause clinical eye issues, result in photodamage (damage to the skin from unprotected exposure to UV radiation), and accelerated photoaging, or premature aging of the skin caused by repeated exposure to UV radiation. The following list includes the risks and dangers of tanning.
- Premature Skin Aging (Photoaging)
- Skin Damage (Photodamage)
- Skin Cancer & Melanoma
- Precancerous Skin Conditions
- Eye Damage; Photokeratitis & Cataracts
- Immune System Suppression
- Redness, Blotchiness & Yellowing Of Skin
- Freckles, Age Spots & Liver Spots
- Wrinkles & Sagging Skin
Do Tanning Beds Cause Cancer?
As with natural tanning, tanning beds and booths significantly increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Whether it's outside in nature or inside with a tanning bed, tanning is a clear detriment to health; this study observes that 61 of 63 women (97%) diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, before 30 used tanning beds. In addition, even if your skin type is not fair or doesn't burn easily, tanning causes DNA injuries that increase your risk for developing precancerous skin conditions, such as actinic keratosis (AK), skin cancer, and premature aging.
Can Tanning Beds Be Used Safely?
No. Our dermatologists know there is no such thing as safe or healthy tanning. When it comes to tanning beds and skin cancer, the increased risk of developing basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (non-melanoma skin cancers) as well as melanoma and other types of skin cancer make tanning a high-risk activity that offers little reward. While you may believe that a tan looks great on you, the harmful consequences of tanning are not worth the sun-kissed appearance. Your best bet is to avoid tanning and unprotected exposure to UV radiation altogether.
How To Tan Safely
Although there is no truly safe method to tan from exposure to UV light, there are ways to get the glow you desire without spending time under the sun or lying in a tanning bed or tanning booth. You can achieve glowing, bronzed skin without the health risks of UV radiation with the wide range of artificial tanning or sunless tanning products available on the market, including self-tanning lotions and spray tans. Sunless tanning products are commonly sold in lotions, creams, and sprays to be applied to the skin. Professional spray-on tanning is likewise available and offers results that are easily mistakable for a natural tan. The active ingredient in the majority of self-tanning products is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a color additive, which, when applied, reacts with the skin's surface layer to darken the skin, simulating a tan temporarily.
Most sunless tanning products, however, do not contain adequate sun protection. Whether you choose to use self-tanners or not, it's critical to ensure your skin is effectively protected against UV radiation. Implementing a daily sun protection routine can help you avoid developing skin cancer and signs of premature aging. Use sunscreen with a broad-spectrum sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 35. Additionally, you should limit direct sun exposure and reapply sunscreen regularly. Another way to protect yourself against skin cancer is to schedule a skin-cancer screening with our dermatologists. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.