“Gio, why don’t you get a tan? You are SO pale.”
If I had a penny for every time someone told me this, I’d be a millionaire. I grew up in sunny Italy, where every summer people rush to the beach to get their tan on… and every winter they resort to tanning beds to top it up.
“You look better with a tan,” they said. But I never bought it. Here’s why: a tan is a sign of sun damage. The price to pay for that beautiful golden hue now is wrinkles, sun spots and cancer a few years down the road.
Even if you use tanning beds. Especially if you use tanning beds. They’ve been long classified as known carcinogenic (unlike parabens – just saying), yet there are so many myths about them that make people think they’re safe.
Let’s debunk the most common – and dangerous – tanning myths, shall we?
- Tanning Myth #1: The UV light emitted by tanning beds is less dangerous than the UV light from the sun
- Tanning Myth #2: Skin cancer is caused by sunburn, not tanning
- Tanning Myth #3: Using tanning beds is safe if you use sunscreen
- Tanning Myth #4: Tanning beds are a good way to get your Vitamin D dose
- Tanning Myth #5: It’s safe to use tanning beds only occasionally
Tanning Myth #1: The UV light emitted by tanning beds is less dangerous than the UV light from the sun
The UV light from tanning beds is a little different, I’ll give you that. While the sun emits both UVA and UVB rays, the light emitted by tanning beds is 98% UVA – cos those are responsible for the golden tan you crave. But don’t think that makes them safer. Tanning beds may not put you at risk of sunburn (UVB rays do that), but they do cause all kinds of other harm. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, destroying collagen, elastin and anything else they find in their path. They make you age faster and give you cancer. For the love of your skin, don’t go there.
Tanning Myth #2: Skin cancer is caused by sunburn, not tanning
Again, there’s a hint of truth here: it’s a known fact that getting a few bad sunburns can increase your risk of getting skin cancer. But tanning – whether it comes from the sun or a tanning bed – puts you at risk of cancer, too. Hear this: the use of tanning beds is associated with a 75% increase in melanoma. Why? Cumulative exposure to UV radiation. Damage skin this week, damage it the next and you increase your chances of developing cancer. To add insult to injury, inside a tanning bed, your skin is very, very close to the source of UV rays, so you’re getting a more concentrated dose. That means more damage. Avoid!
Related: How To Treat A Sunburn
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Tanning Myth #3: Using tanning beds is safe if you use sunscreen
If only! Sure, a broad-spectrum sunscreen can greatly reduce the damage from tanning beds. But it CAN’T prevent it completely. And don’t think that “protective” tanning oils are any better. They’re WORSE. They prevent UV rays from drying out your skin, but they offer NO UV protection. None at all.
Related: 6 Things To Look For In A Sunscreen
Tanning Myth #4: Tanning beds are a good way to get your Vitamin D dose
You’ve probably heard we get our vitamin D fix from the sun. That’s true. What no one told you is that we get it from UVB rays. The light from tanning beds is 98% UVA rays, remember? So if that’s why you’re doing it, hard luck. You’ll get hardly any Vitamin D from tanning beds. Get your fix from foods or supplements instead.
Tanning Myth #5: It’s safe to use tanning beds only occasionally
Nope! Tanning is never safe! End of.
Now you really have no excuse to keep using tanning beds. Remember, it’s never too late to stop damaging your skin!
Do you know of any other tanning bed myths that need busting? Share them in the comments below.