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Tanning Bed or Coffin?

Posted by Dan Narsete on

"In a thousand years’ archeologists will dig up tanning beds and think we fried people as punishment." –Olivia Wilde

We’ve all seen the ads for tanning beds.  You may have even partaken a time or two. It seems like on every street corner, you pass a tanning salon, pictures of models with their golden bronzed skin hanging in the windows, enticing you to look the same. Is golden bronzed skin worth the risk? Today, we are going to look at the technology and dangers behind tanning beds.

Working on your Tan
The first known ultra-violet (UV) based lamps were invented in the late 1800’s for skin-related issues. During that time, most people had no interest in using them for aesthetic purposes since pale skin was in. In the 20’s, fashion icon Coco Chanel started the trend of tanned skin after a vacation.  Tanned skin started to represent wealth and health.  To stay on trend, women ended up using everything from tea bags to angled sun mirrors to get the infamous Coco “tanned” look.  Fast forward to the 70’s and UV-based lamps of the 1800s turned into UV-based beds.    

Science (The Fun Part)
Next time you visit a restaurant take notice of the kitchen line. Do they have lamps keeping your food warm? Imagine your body laying there like those dried-out chicken strips. Yummy.

Tanning lamps are similar in that they use large fluorescent lamps and wavelengths of light between 100-400 nm. This type of light is comparable to how the sun works and is absorbed by the skin. When these rays hit the skin, a chemical reaction occurs and excites your cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes are responsible for creating melanin or the color you see on your skin.  Think freckles and skin tone. 

The Dangers
Besides excitable melanocytes, we’ve heard  other tanning bed concerns such as increased risk of skin cancer, burns, and excessive hyperpigmentation.  To check the facts (and because we always learn so much from her), we called Board Certified Dermatologist Dr. Amy Paul to get her thoughts regarding the use of tanning beds.

Q: Is it safe to use tanning beds?
Dr. Paul: There is no safe level of UV exposure from tanning beds for aesthetic purposes.
Q: What are the problems with tanning beds:
Dr. Paul: The risk of melanoma is very high. Even patients who use prescribed UV beds for eczema and other skin issues have to sign waivers that release physicians from skin cancer related lawsuits. It’s that serious.

To backup Dr. Paul’s responses, we gathered some additional research. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), “even one indoor tanning session can increase user’s risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 67% and basal cell carcinoma by 29%”.  I think we rest our case. 

We all want to look good, but it’s important to understand what we are doing to get there. Back in the day, I’m sure looking like Coco Chanel was all the rage - it still is for thousands of Americans. But, at what cost? The Reflect Team hopes you will think twice before you choose to use a tanning bed. Just say no. 


To your skin health,
Team Reflect

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