The dangers of tanning beds are often downplayed, as the industry tries to present them as a safe alternative to tanning with minimal risk to your health.
In fact, both the World Health Organisation and the Skin Cancer Foundation label UV radiation as a carcinogen (cancer-causing substance), whether it be from the sun or tanning beds. The latter group has even found that undergoing one indoor tanning session before the age of 35 increased an individual’s risk of developing life-threatening melanoma by 75%. Indeed, while the healthy ‘glow’ of a tan is highly sought after in Western society, it is actually evidence of damage to the DNA of one’s skin. When exposed to UV radiation, our skin tries to prevent damage by producing melanin (the pigment that gives our skin its colour), resulting in darkening – what we call a tan.
However, developing a gradual tan through repeated, but careful, sun exposure isn’t dangerous. As long precautions are taken – such as avoiding peak sun exposure times (10am-2pm), and regularly applying sunscreen of at least SPF30, a light tan without burning isn’t considered a warning sign. Indeed, occasional sun exposure is important for activating vitamin D in your skin, which is useful for keeping bones strong, boosting immune functions and may also decrease the risk of cancers.