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East Central Indiana

Tanning Booths

Tanning Booths

Tanning Booths

Is it safe to tan?

There is no such thing as a "safe" tan. Although it is often associated with a feeling of well-being, a tan is actually the skin's response to injury. Following excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation, the skin produces new melanin or pigment to provide some natural protection against further damage. Unfortunately, tanning parlors offering artificial sources of high-intensity ultraviolet A (UVA) have become popular. Many consumers mistakenly believe that tanning in artificial light does not damage the skin. This is not true. Exposure to UVA radiation, in the doses given at so-called "safe" tanning parlors, poses potential short-term and long-term hazards to the skin.

Do tanning booths emit only UVA radiation?

Sunlight is composed of UVB and UVA radiation, whereas the artificial sources used in tanning booths are supposed to emit UVA radiation exclusively. However, tests of selected tubes have shown that they emit as high as 2% UVB. You cannot be certain without checking each tanning booth individually.

Is UVA radiation as damaging as UVB?

Dermatologists believe that UVB radiation is more harmful to the skin. UVA and UVB do cause some of the same adverse effects, and UVA poses other unique risks. In addition, some high-intensity lamps and lights expose you to five times as much radiation per unit of time as you would receive by standing on the equator at noon.

Are some people at special risk in a tanning booth?

Exposure to UVA radiation is especially harmful for people taking medications which make the skin more sensitive to light. This is called drug photosensitivity. Such medications include antibiotics, antidiabetic agents, tranquilizers and other compounds. People who do not tan or tan poorly are genetically more susceptible to skin damage from ultraviolet radiation. Tanning booths also involve additional risk for people with a history of prior skin cancer or chronic skin damage due to sun exposure.

What are the potential side effects of exposure to UVA?

Injury to the skin caused by repeated exposure to UVA radiation accumulates over your lifetime. UVA radiation can cause changes in the skin that may lead to skin cancer. Excessive exposure to UVA can also destroy the skin's elastic tissue and promote premature aging, including wrinkling, leathery appearance of the skin, and irregular pigmentation or age spots. Studies have also demonstrated that UVA radiation can damage DNA all of these harmful effects have been demonstrated in animal studies.

Dermatologists think that UVA radiation damages human skin in the same ways. Studies in humans have shown that UVA radiation can alter Langerhans cells and damage cell membranes. Langerhans cells are part of the immune system and reducing them may diminish the body's ability to recognize and fight foreign substances such as bacteria, allergens and skin cancer cells.

Is UVA radiation harmful to the eyes?

Yes. Animal studies suggest that UVA radiation may result in corneal "burns", cataracts and damage to the retinAlways wear protective glasses in tanning booths. Unfortunately, many advertisements for UVA tanning parlors don't show people wearing glasses.

Aren't tanning booths regulated by the FDA?

Some tanning parlors have confused consumers by advertising that their units are approved but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA does have rigid standards regulating the safety of the tanning booth apparatus to prevent it from collapsing on a person. However, this doesn't mean that the radiation emitted by the lamps or lights is safe.

Is there a combined effect from sunlight and tanning booth?

Without a doubt. By being in sunlight and frequenting tanning booths, you are exposing your skin to two damaging agents. There is every reason to believe that the additional exposure from UVA tanning units augments the damaging effects of the sun. Some exposure to sunlight is inevitable since it is not practical for people to stay indoors all the time. Recreation is an important part of our activities and contributes to good health.

To reduce harmful effects of sunlight, you should be careful about how much time you spend outdoors, and use sunscreens to protect your skin. Exposure to artificial sources of UVA radiation provides no known beneficial effects. Dermatologists have serious concerns about consumers exposing their skin to artificial sources of UVA radiation and recommend against it. A tanning booth does your skin no good and may cause considerable damage. In short, you may be paying money to harm your skin.

What can I use to look tan without harming my skin?

The new self tanning creams and gels offer an excellent alternative to harmful radiation. With a little practice, a "natural tan" is easy to apply. Also, bronzing gels offer a quick change.