There’s a lot researchers have yet to learn about tanning bed use. But one thing we know for sure is that tanning beds lead to damaged skin and skin cancer. Still, many myths surround tanning beds. We talked to Sapna Patel, M.D., assistant professor Medical Oncology, to learn the truth behind these common tanning bed myths.
Myth 1: Tanning beds aren’t as bad as the sun.
False. “Tanning beds can deliver more ultraviolet rays than the sun, depending how long and how often they’re used,” Patel says.
Tanning beds emit UV rays - the same harmful rays that come from the sun and cause sun damage. Just like the sun, tanning beds cause premature aging, making skin look leathery and unattractive. And tanning bed use is associated with abnormal moles, a melanoma symptom. The Center for Disease Control reports that people who tan as adolescents have a higher risk of developing melanoma.
Myth 2: A base tan will protect my skin from the sun when I go to the beach or someplace warm and sunny.
False. “A tan is not protection from the sun,” Patel says. “It’s actually a sign of skin damage.”
“It’s certainly not a protective layer,” Patel says.
Myth 3: Tanning is a good way to get vitamin D.
False. “Your skin can absorb vitamin D while you’re tanning, but there are many healthier ways to get vitamin D,” Patel says.
One way to get vitamin D is through food. Foods like leafy greens, eggs and fish all provide vitamin D.
‘When it comes to tanning, you’re causing more harm than good,” Patel says.
Myth 4: I need to tan to help my mood.
False. Tanning may help your mood, but it’s better to look for healthier ways to lift your spirits, even if you have seasonal affective disorder. While tanning salons have limits on how long you can tan, dermatologists agree that any time in a tanning bed is too much time.
“This is another situation where the risk outweighs the reward,” Patel says.
Talk to your doctor to learn other ways to improve your mood or cope with seasonal affective disorder and depression.
While there’s a great deal of misinformation surrounding tanning beds, it’s important to remember that steering clear of them is always the best option for your skin. Staying away from tanning beds will help you lower your skin cancer risk, and help prevent signs of skin damage.