Are Tanning Beds Safe?- The Indoor Tanning Association (ITA) has just launced an ad compaign promoting the benefits of a good tan. I imagine this to be an attempt to get some of the business back that has been lost due to the “dangers” of natural sunlight.
As you know, the best source of vitamin D is that which we produce naturally in the skin upon exposure to sunlight. In the northern climates, the ability to get enough sun to maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D is severely limited by the short days. I expect this may be one reason for the slogan “Go get a tan. Your body will thank you.”
Well, if the tan is produced by natural sunlight I say go for it, just remember to be careful and don’t get a burn. However, the light used in a tanning bed is not natural sunlight.
The sun produces two types of UV light that affects us – UVA and UVB. The UVA penetrates deeper into the skin and gives a long lasting tan. The UVB affects the outer layer of skin and can cause you to burn more easliy and the tan fades faster. The lights used in most tanning beds are mostly (95%) UVA. However, vitamin D is produced by the skin from exposure to UVB. So while you may get a long-lasting tan, you are not getting much Vitamin D benefit.
In my opinion, unless you can find a tanning salon that uses full-spectrum lights (those that emit light as close as possible to sunlight), I’d stay away from them. As always, do your research and then make an informed decision as to what is best for you.
If you are taking any medications or supplements, be sure to talk to your health care provider about tanning as some of these items can affect the way your skin responds to UV light.