Despite what you have been told about tanning beds, indoor or sunless tanning does not offer a safer alternative to a good, old tan from the sun. Ultraviolet rays are ultraviolet rays whether they come from the sun or light bulbs, and can cause damage to your skin regardless of the source.
In the old days tanning beds emitted shortwave ultraviolet rays (UVB) that actually caused more burning than Mother Nature, despite the fact that people were told that indoor tanning was a safer alternative to what comes from that “ordinary star.” As these machines evolved, tanning beds used bulbs that emitted mostly longwave light (UVA).
The marketing of these newer beds included the claims that UVA rays are safe. The reality is that UVA rays are less likely to cause burning that UVB rays, but still are suspected to cause malignant melanoma and immune system damage. The claims that indoor tanning is safer than the real thing should be taken with a huge grain of salt, and you should be aware of some facts before you expose your epidermis to a tanning bed.
Ultraviolet light is either shortwave (UVB) or longwave (UVA). All sources of ultraviolet light – the sun and artificial – can contribute to the risk of developing skin cancer. UVB rays can burn the outer layer of the skin while UVA rays penetrate more deeply and can damage the inner connective tissue of the skin. Skin isn’t the only thing at risk, as our eyes can also be damaged from too much ultraviolet light.
UV rays -especially UVA rays – can burn the cornea and the retina and over time cataracts can form as a result of this damage. The only way to protect the eyes from ultraviolet light emitted from tanning beds is to wear goggles.
As a matter of fact, the Food and Drug Administration requires tanning salons to advise their customers to wear eye protection. Ordinary shades, closing your eyes or using any other kinds of materials does not protect the eyes from the UV rays of tanning beds.
Actually, the intensity of indoor UV rays is greater and possibly more damaging to the eyes than the UV rays from natural sunlight. Year round exposure to the sun or artificial light can cause damage, especially if skin is not protected, and UV rays from tanning beds increase the damage done by natural sunlight.
The advent of the at-home face tanning lamps just increases the risk of over-exposing skin to UV rays and causing damage, despite the fact that these devices are advertised as reducing the risk of overexposure to the sun. The popular Bion Facial Tanner is being promoted as a safe way to get a suntanned face and can be used “24/7.”
The bottom line is that if UV rays are involved there’s the chance that skin will be damaged, and the more exposure, the greater the risk of damage. With the advent of inexpensive self-tanning lotions and salon-style spray-on tans there’s no reason to take the risks associated with using any kind of tanning device.
Over the past few years the quality of these “lightless” tanning methods have improved and offer a much safer, cheaper and more convenient alternative to both natural sunlight and the artificial UV rays produced by tanning beds.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good and preferring that your skin has a bronzed, suntanned appearance. Just make sure to take advantage of the safest methods possible so that you can look good and feel good.