Are Tanning Beds Dangerous?

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  • Written By: Margo Upson
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 July 2018
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A golden tan is considered in many cultures to be attractive and a sign of good health. To achieve this look year round, many people use tanning beds. Just a few minutes every few days can quickly and easily leave a person with darker skin, even in the middle of winter. Some people consider this to be a safer alternative to outdoors tanning, under the sun, but this is not true. They are at least as dangerous as tanning outdoors, if not more so.

A tanning bed use exposes the skin to incredibly high amounts of ultraviolet (UV) light, both UVA and UVB rays. These rays lead to dangerous amounts of skin damage, which is what creates the tan. The UV rays damage the skin cells, which produce more pigment than normal. The skin is subjected to high levels of radiation, even in the short amount of time a person is in the tanning booth.

Skin damage and exposure to UV rays can increase a person's risk of skin cancer. Women who tan at least once a month are 55% more likely to develop melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. Skin cancer is caused by the damaged skin cells, often the product of too much exposure to UVA and UVB rays. Even the use of sunscreen cannot entirely remove the risk of sun cancer.


Lesser known dangers of tanning beds can be just as troubling as the skin damage. The UV ray can lead to eye damage, especially if the eyes are not covered by a specially designed pair of goggles. Using sun glasses, or even just closing the eyes, will not provide adequate protection. Cataracts, corneal burns, and even retinal damage are potential risks of tanning without eye protection.

Taking certain types of medications, such as some antibiotics, tranquilizers, and blood pressure medications, can make a person more susceptible to UV rays. Those who are fair skinned or who burn easily may also have a greater risk of serious skin damage. Luckily, more and more tanning salons are offering a safer alternative. Spray-on tans can be applied in minutes, and provide a healthy looking tan without any of the risks.

There are no regulations on tanning booth usage, making them even more dangerous. Despite the risk, some people choose to tan several times a week, greatly increasing their chances of skin damage, premature aging, and cancer. Those choosing to tan should remember to use a sun block with a high sun protection factor (SPF) and broad spectrum protection, wear tanning goggles, and to limit the amount of time spent in tanning booths to reduce the risks.


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Discuss this Article

Post 9

I have a friend who used to have a Wolff tanning bed in her home. She always had this beautiful tan all year long and I was a little bit envious about this.

Once you are used to having a tan like this all the time, it is hard not to keep doing it. As far as I know she didn't have any major skin damage, but became concerned enough to stop tanning all the time and eventually sold her tanning bed.

Post 8

@LisaLou-- I am not even sure if a spray-on tan is all that good for you, but I think it would sure be a lot safer than using a tanning bed.

I will never use a tanning bed again as I had some eye damage because of the UV rays. I only went to a tanning bed a few times a year--it wasn't like I was there all the time, but I noticed significant changes in my eyes when I was done tanning.

I was always faithful about wearing the appropriate goggles, and even covered them up with a towel, but it wasn't enough. For me getting a fake tan is definitely not worth ruining my eyesight over.

Post 7

There was recently some local news coverage on the safety of tanning beds. There was a lot of debate about it because they were trying to make it illegal for people under the age of 18 to use a tanning bed.

I don't know if that was just in our state, or if it was ever passed, but I do remember there was a big uproar about it. Many of the girls were really upset because they wanted to go to prom with a nice tan.

I think under a circumstance like that you could use a spray-on tan and still get the results you were looking for.

Post 6

I was in college when tanning beds first became popular and was so excited about them. I loved having a nice tan in the summer and figured this way I could have one all year long.

It was probably a good thing I was a poor college student and couldn't really afford to pay for a tanning bed on a regular basis.

Now that I have the money to pay for something like this I am not all that interested. I may use a tanning bed before I go on a trip to a warm place in the middle of winter, but other than that don't really feel like they are very safe to use all of the time.

It seems like there is frequently more evidence coming out telling everyone just how dangerous they really are.

Post 5

Both the sun and tanning beds are dangerous, but I think that tanning beds are more dangerous than the sun. Tanning beds offer no benefits other than darkening your skin.

The sun, however, actually helps your body make vitamin D. People actually get ill from a vitamin D deficiency, and this can be cured by going out in the sun for fifteen minutes a day.

So, while I wouldn't recommend either for tanning purposes, getting a little bit of sun every day is actually good for your body. I think that tanning beds should be outlawed, because they are no good for anyone.

Post 4

I tried using a salon tanning bed a few times when I was in college. I wanted to fit in with the rest of the tanned students, but I found out that I cannot tolerate a tanning bed.

I used one three times in one week, and even though I only stayed in it for a few minutes at a time, my skin reacted badly. I broke out in a red rash, and my skin itched and felt really tight.

I could see fine wrinkles on my chest in the midst of the red rash. It seemed that I had damaged my skin by making it age in just that short amount of time.

Post 3

@OeKc05 – I know people who use low SPF, like maybe 8, in tanning beds to keep from burning. Using SPF 30 would defeat the purpose, though.

My aunt uses SPF 30 on her face only. Many people don't want to tan their faces, because doing so creates wrinkles and age spots. They can always cover their faces with darker makeup to make them match the rest of their bodies.

Post 2

Do people actually use sunscreen in indoor tanning beds? Doesn't that kind of defeat the whole purpose? Why expose yourself to extreme UV rays and put something on that blocks them out?

Post 1

First of all, it is inaccurate to say there are no regulations for tanning beds and salons. I know first hand that both Michigan and Montana do not allow you to use a tanning salon more than once every 24 hours.

Anytime Fitness uses the same key fob that lets you into the building for their tanning rooms. So the computer locks you out of using the bed automatically for 24 hours. It's the law.

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