Many tanning salons often promote their services by telling you that indoor tanning does two things: One, it gives you beautiful, golden skin, and two, it boosts your Vitamin D levels.
Oftentimes, they also say a tanning bed is MUCH SAFER than outdoor sun exposure.
However, are these claims actually FACTS? Are tanning beds really all that beneficial? Are you really getting that Vitamin D juice?
Let’s debunk a few myths here!
How Do Tanning Beds Work: Is There Vitamin D in the Rays of Tanning Beds?
First of all, how exactly do tanning beds work? How do a few sessions in a tanning salon darken pale skin into a deep, golden brown?
Well, it’s all because of UV radiation.
Tanning beds emit UV rays (mostly UVA rays and some UVB rays) through multiple light bulbs or high-pressure sunlamps.
Their artificial UV rays mimic the effects of natural sunlight, and upon exposure, they stimulate melanin production in your body.
Basically, MORE melanin = DARKER skin.
The Dark Truth of Tanning Beds
However, what most people don’t realize is that the disadvantages of tanning beds FAR OUTWEIGH their advantages. In fact, some of their so-called ‘benefits’ aren’t even backed by scientific research.
Here are some common myths surrounding tanning beds and the evidence debunking them:
Myth #1 - An Indoor Tanning Session is Safer Than Being Out in the Sun
The biggest myth of all: Tanning beds are very SAFE and pose fewer health risks than outdoor tanning.
Unfortunately, exposure to all types of UV rays—artificial or natural—causes skin damage. Remember, a tan is your body’s attempt to recover from ultraviolet damage. It’s basically VISIBLE PROOF of harm.
UVA rays, the ones primarily responsible for tanning, go deep into your skin, reaching even your blood vessels and nerves.
- UVA rays not only cause premature aging; they also compromise your immune system, leaving you at risk for a deadly type of skin cancer known as melanoma.
- UVB rays, on the other hand, cause sunburn. That’s right, you can blame them for the redness, swelling, or irritation you feel from tanning too long!
Although tanning beds only emit small amounts of UVB rays, you should know they increase your risks of developing skin cancer too—particularly basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Our suggestion: Learn how to lay down in a tanning bed properly. There are positions that can speed up the process so you spend less time on the bed.
- Please remember these diseases are VERY SERIOUS. You should never have to take these risks just for the sake of beauty!!
- Sunscreen will help protect you from the UV rays of the sun if you can’t minimize outdoor exposure, but a tanning bed is a dangerous choice you make on your own.
Myth #2 - Tanning Beds Boost Vitamin D Production
Another popular myth within the tanning industry is that tanning beds stimulate vitamin D production in your body.
Bad news: Scientific studies led by researchers have proven that this is FALSE.
While it’s true that UVB rays encourage your body to produce vitamin D, most tanning beds don’t emit enough UVB rays for this to work.
And, even if a tanning bed did, solely relying on UV rays or sunlight for vitamin D isn’t a smart choice—this seriously heightens your risk of getting SKIN CANCER.
The American Academy of Dermatology does NOT recommend using sunlight or a tanning bed to get a good enough vitamin D level in your body, as their skin cancer-causing effects are much too dangerous.
And yes, stand-up tanning beds are also as dangerous.
Myth #3 - Getting a Base Tan Will Protect My Skin from Future Sun Exposure
There is no such thing as a ‘safe’ base tan.
Although the concept of a base tan has been widely talked about (and even promoted!) by tanning enthusiasts, it BARELY provides any protection against further damage.
The logic behind it doesn’t make any sense either—how can DAMAGING your skin through a base tan provide protection from sunlight?
Although you’ll gain maybe SPF 4-level protection, this is still very, very far from the recommended amount that’ll actually block out harmful UVA and UVB rays from the sun. Remember this when you plan to visit your favorite tanning salons and using a tanning bed this winter!
Myth #4 - Tanning Will Cure My Acne
Have you ever heard that a trip to the tanning bed is the magical cure-all for acne? We hate to burst your bubble, but it’s really NOT.
In fact, tanning majorly DRIES out your skin, which can actually make your acne WORSE. It can also lead to discoloration and hyperpigmentation, especially if you do it often.
That’s why people often use sunblock to prevent the formation of freckles and sun spots whenever they go outdoors!
Myth #5 - Tanning Beds Can Produce Safe, Controlled Doses of UV Rays
Again, there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ amount of ultraviolet rays.
That’s why wearing sunscreen every day is extremely important—it greatly reduces the risk of cancers, premature aging, and other health concerns.
Plus, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, frequent tanners may receive as much as twelve times the annual UVA dose compared to those who are only exposed to natural sunlight.
YES, this means tanning beds are AGGRESSIVE and highly DANGEROUS for your health. And don’t even think about using mineral tanning oil while on a tanning bed!
Did you know that just ten minutes in a tanning bed matches the cancer-causing effects of ten minutes under the Mediterranean summer sun?
Knowing this, would you still continue tanning if the only benefit is ‘beauty’?
Why is Vitamin D Important?
About Vitamin D
Vitamin D is ESSENTIAL for many vital processes in our bodies.
Because it regulates calcium and phosphorus absorption and encourages effective immune system function, it keeps our bones strong and our bodies healthy/disease-free.
Now, those with vitamin D deficiency often feel tired and sluggish.
In extreme cases, they may even develop serious bone abnormalities that make them prone to fractures and other injuries.
Can You Get Vitamin D from Tanning Beds?
Like we mentioned earlier, a tanning bed WILL NOT help you raise vitamin D levels in your body.
Tanning beds do not contain the UVB rays that stimulate vitamin D production, so you will be getting ZERO health benefits out of them.
Natural light from the sun will be much more effective, but take care not to overdo it.
NEVER go out without adequate SPF on, and make sure to reapply your sunblock a few times throughout the day to prevent burning.
How to Raise Vitamin D Levels in Your Body Without Risking Your Health
Although light from the sun is the only natural way for our bodies to produce vitamin D, supplements and a healthy diet can work wonders too!
Here are some great ways to get your daily dose of vitamin D even without the sun:
#1 Eat Foods Fortified with Vitamin D
If your body isn’t producing enough vitamin D, it can be difficult to get enough from your regular meals. Fortunately, a lot of brands produce food products fortified with this nutrient to help you out.
Look out for milk, yogurts, juices, and other breakfast options enriched with vitamin D at your local supermarket.
Usually, a quick glance at the label or the ingredients list will confirm if it’s a fortified product!
#2 Make Oily Fish and Seafood a Staple in Your Diet
Fatty fish and seafood naturally contain a LOT of vitamin D, so incorporating things like salmon, tuna, mackerel, or shrimp in your meals will definitely benefit your health!
#3 Consume Egg Yolks
Did you know that eggs—egg yolks, specifically—are also RICH in vitamin D? That’s right, this breakfast staple is very nutrient-dense and good for you!
Now, although it’s very healthy (and tasty) to include more eggs in your diet, don’t overdo it either! The yolks are high in cholesterol, so consume in moderation.
#4 Take Vitamin D Supplements
If you have a vitamin D deficiency or if you struggle to get this nutrient naturally, consider taking a supplement for a more effective treatment.
Before you purchase one, know there are usually two types:
- Vitamin D2, which comes from plants, and
- Vitamin D3, which is sourced from animals
Although some researchers say taking D3 produces better results, D2 is still a great option if you’re vegan or vegetarian.
If you’re still unsure, it’s best to consult your doctor so he/she can help you determine the best course of action moving forward!
Alternatives to a Tanning Bed
Now that you know a tanning bed comes with a lot of SERIOUS RISKS, how can you still get a beautiful, golden tan for summer?
Fortunately, you don’t need natural light OR artificial light to achieve a darker shade. Ditch the tanning bed and go for self-tanners like lotions and sprays, which will do the trick too!
Looking for more professional treatments? Book a spray tan session at a trusted salon for smooth, glowy skin without the effort, pain, and dangerous side effects.
Do note that self-tanning products will wear off much quicker than a real tan, but they’re also much, MUCH safer than UV light. With that said, these are definitely preferable to a tanning bed.
Check out a self-tanner formulated for sensitive skin if you’re afraid of getting allergic reactions from a tanning bed.
Tan with Sunblock
If you MUST tan in natural light, do it SAFELY, and with adequate protection. Use sunscreens formulated for tanning!
Apply on a generous amount of sunblock (ideally SPF 30 and above!) before going outdoors, and don’t lay out in the sun for too long.
Although this is less dangerous than a tanning bed, know it’s still HARMFUL to your skin. Given all the potential risks, it’s still best if you can avoid this entirely!
There’s really very little you can gain from sitting in a tanning bed. This also opens you up to a lot of dangers that could negatively affect your quality of life.
Although a beautiful tan may seem like a great thing to have, this short-term happiness pales in comparison to the long-term harms it brings. Remember, health should ALWAYS be your priority!
August 17, 2021 – Reviewed and updated article links