The Ugly Truth About Tanning (Beware of These 4 Myths)

Written by Fareesa Sandoval, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on June 25, 2020 No Comments

hazards of tanning

While many people view tan skin as desirable from a cosmetic standpoint, any form of UV ray-based tanning can potentially be harmful to your health. Just sitting out in the sun or using a tanning bed once a month can increase your chances of developing some form of skin cancer by 55%.

More bad news: you are aging your skin every time you tan via UV exposure. UVA rays specifically have been linked to early onset aging, causing the development of wrinkles, lines, and dullness.

Here are the truths behind 4 common tanning myths:

Myth: Tan skin looks good!

Truth: While you may enjoy the look of your golden-brown tan in the short term, you are acquiring long term photo-damage which will result in skin that looks overly aged and dry.

Myth: Skin cancer is only prominent in older people.

Truth: Skin cancer cases are beginning to manifest in younger and younger individuals. Currently melanoma (the most aggressive form of skin cancer) is the third most common cancer in individuals between the ages of 15 to 39.

Myth: A “base tan” is good because it can protect my skin from damage.

Truth: Tanning is damaged skin. Specifically, your skin forms pigment as a means to try and defend itself from overexposure to UV rays.

Myth: Tanning beds are a safe alternative to natural tanning via the sun.

Truth: Tanning beds expose the skin to highly dangerous levels of UV rays. The FDA recently proposed some new rules regarding tanning beds that would require individuals over age 18 to sign periodic waivers acknowledging the risks associated with tanning beds, and would require sunlamp manufacturers and tanning facilities take additional measures to improve the overall safety of these devices. Multiple states including Texas have already taken the step of banning individuals under 18 from using indoor tanning beds.

Self-Tanners: A safer and better alternative

You can still safely get a bronzed, “sun-kissed” look using premium self-tanning products or spray on tans. We also developed a great guide for using self-tanner. Follow those instructions for a truly great (and safe) tan.

**Source: For more information on the truths behind tanning please see this great infographic provided by the CDC.

Fareesa Sandoval, MD

Dr. Sandoval is Board Certified by the American Board of Dermatology and is a member of the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), the American Academy of Dermatology, the Dermatology Foundation, the Texas Medical Association, and the Travis County Medical Society. Dr. Sandoval’s interests include adult and pediatric medical dermatology, skin cancer management, and cosmetic dermatology.

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