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Cumberland Skin dermatologists answer the question, “are using tanning beds for the winter really that bad for the skin?”

Getting a Winter Glow with Tanning Beds… Is it Really That Bad for the Skin?

As the winter season closes in, many people are getting ready to hunker down for the chilly days, binge on endless bowls of warm soup, and get cozy with their friends and family. For others, this season involves hitting up the tanning salon to get a vibrant winter glow. 

Many of our patients who regularly use tanning beds often ask us, “Is it really that bad for the skin? And do tanning beds really give you skin cancer?” 

We’re here to dispel some myths… and amplify some facts regarding tanning beds and sun lamps! Keep reading to uncover what you should know about the darker side of tanning. 

 

The Darker Side of Tanning 

TRUTH: Tanning beds and sun lamps are dangerous. 

UV radiation — not only from the tanning beds and sun lamps, but also from the sun — is linked to skin cancer development. In fact, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation, there is a 75% increased risk of developing life-threatening melanoma from just one indoor tanning session before age 35. 

Not to mention, UV radiation can also have a damaging effect on the immune system and cause premature aging of the skin, giving it a wrinkled, leathery appearance. This is not ideal for those who are keen on maintaining a youthful, radiant appearance

 

MYTH: getting some “sun” is good for you.

In many cases, a “glowing” tan is associated with good skin health. However, nothing could be further from the truth. This so-called “glow” is evidence of DNA injury and skin damage. 

While some exposure to natural sunlight, only a small amount is needed for your skin to produce enough Vitamin D for optimal health! And we’re talking about natural sunlight here, not the UV rays that a tanning bed or sun lamp produces. 

Believe us when we say, you’re much better off taking a supplement during the shorter days of winter than hitting up the tanning salon for some Vitamin D! 

 

TRUTH: light therapy is healthy… but not from tanning beds. 

Many people who live in the northern regions that experience shorter days in the winter season also experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). However, a common misconception is that you can treat this disorder with frequent use of tanning beds… but this is completely false. 

There is no definitive evidence that UV rays have the same benefit as bright light (aka light therapy), which is what the dermatologists at Cumberland Skin recommend using if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter time. 

Instead of tanning your winter sorrows away, which will not work, opt for an ultra-bright lamp that provides 10,000 lux full-spectrum LED light to mimic the sun. 

 

MYTH: Tanning beds use mostly UVA rays, which makes them safer than the sun that emits both UVA and UVB rays.

This is a common misconception when it comes to tanning beds and sun lamps. While it’s true that the sun is harmful to unprotected skin due to the UVA and UVB rays, this does not mean that tanning beds are safer. 

On the contrary, it is estimated that frequent tanners using high-pressure sunlamps may receive as much as 12 times the annual UVA dose compared to the dose they receive from sun exposure. It’s estimated that 10 minutes in a tanning bed matches the cancer-causing effects of 10 minutes in the Mediterranean summer sun.

 

TRUTH: Some skin colors are at more risk than others. 

While everyone’s skin can be damaged by UV radiation, some skin types are at much more risk of burning and skin damage than others. Using the list below, people with skin types 1, 2, and 3 are at the greatest risk for skin damage and skin cancer

  1. Pale white skin – Always burns; never tans
  2. White – Burns easily; tans minimally
  3. White (Average) – Burns moderately; tans gradually to light brown
  4. Beige or lightly tanned – Burns minimally; always tans well to moderately brown
  5. Moderate brown or tanned – Rarely burns; tans profusely to dark
  6. Dark brown or black – Never burns; deeply pigmented

 

MYTH: Skin cancers caused by tanning beds can be cured. 

Another misconception regarding tanning beds is that this type of UV radiation only causes the so-called “better” skin cancers that are easily treatable, such as basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). 

But this is absolutely not the case. 

Excessive exposure to UVA rays, which is what tanning beds and sun lamps use, increases a person’s risk of developing malignant melanoma. Melanoma is one of the most dangerous skin cancers and can be incredibly hard to treat depending on where it is located and what stage it is in. Furthermore, in many cases, melanoma is fatal if not detected early enough. 

Furthermore, though BCC and SCC are often treatable in their early stages, these skin cancers are life-threatening if they spread deeper into the surrounding tissue or to another part of the body. 

 

Healthy, Happy Skin Starts with Cumberland Skin 

Whether you need a skin cancer screening, a professional evaluation to look at a suspicious spot, or simply some skincare recommendations, we’re here to help! Get in touch with the board-certified dermatologists at Cumberland Skin for all your skin concerns. 

 

Cumberland Skin Surgery and Dermatology provides effective, compassionate general dermatology, skin cancer surgery, and cosmetic dermatology solutions for our patients throughout the Southeast. With offices in Hermitage, Lebanon, Brentwood, and Hendersonville, Tennessee, we’re your destination for high-caliber skincare. Visit our website at cumberlandskin.com or give us a call today at 615-449-5771.

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