The Scary Truth About Solarium


Photo Courtesy of wiseGeek.

Now that winter is on its way––or is supposed to be, but I’m unsure with this weather patterns––you may feel obliged to hit up your local tanning salon to maintain that gorgeous tan you worked so hard on over the summer. But before you run along to jump in a tanning bed, let me try to convince you otherwise.

Tans form as a result of damage to the skin by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. When our skin is exposed to the sun we begin to produce melatonin, a dark pigment, to act as a protective layer. This pigment is known as a tan, but is really displaying that your body is trying to protect itself from further skin damage. Sun damage can lead to premature aging (including wrinkles, leather-like skin, and sunspots), eye damage, and skin cancer.

UV light from the sun can change the configuration of your DNA, making it a confirmed carcinogen. There are two types of UV light: UVA light, which penetrates into the deep layers of your skin and UVB light, which typically burns your skin on the surface. Overexposure to either will cause skin cancer.

Now what’s so bad about solariums, you may ask?

A tan, whether it’s from being outside at the beach or a solarium, is bad news. However, studies show that tanning beds can be up to three times more dangerous than being outside. According to Harvard Medical School, sunbeds typically contain the same amount of UVB light but over three times the amount of UVA light as the sun.

Indoor tanning is done in short, concentrated bursts. This allows the UV light to cause much faster mutations in your cells. Although no form of tanning is safe, tanning under 100-180 watt globes with a more concentrated delivery of UV light will cause faster and more detrimental skin damage.

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer over the course of their lifetime. Melanoma, most commonly found in a black mole, is a deadly form of skin cancer that forms as a direct result of overexposure to the sun’s UV rays. To make matters even worse, people who use a tanning bed before the age of 35 increase their risk of melanoma by 75 percent.

If this isn’t enough to scare you, both Australia and Brazil have implemented a national ban on solariums due to the negative health impacts they have on the younger generation.

Your friends may say, “Tanning is good for you, you need Vitamin D,” but this is an urban myth. Vitamin D comes from the UVB rays, which are generally a lot lower in concentration in a solarium. To maintain healthy Vitamin D levels you should spend 20 minutes outside each day. Even if it’s cloudy, the UV rays will still penetrate through the clouds and be able to reach you.
Some healthy alternatives for getting that bronze glow include instant spray tans or DIY tanning lotions. It’s nice to be brown all year round, but when you’re all bundled up in winter clothing nobody’s going to see your pale legs anyway. So ultimately, why waste your time, money, and your health?