THIRD QUARTER 2001, VOLUME 15, NO 3

Tanning salons equal double damage for your skin

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Tanning salons equal double damage for your skin

Being bronze may be in, but only if it comes from a bottle and not your local tanning salon. What makes these places so popular? Does the general public know how damaging this intentional exposure can be?

The Ploy

If you walk into a tanning salon you will feel like you have been transported to the Caribbean with upbeat music and a plethora of lotions, oils, gels, and bathing suits for sale. You can almost taste the pina colada. The ambiance alone may account for the repeat tanners and year-round memberships; it is relaxing, de-stressing, and glamorous. Among sun worshippers, if you question the safety of tanning you may be told that on the contrary tanning promotes vitamin D production and decreases blood pressure; all while making the consumer golden brown, confident, and attractive. According to FDA regulations, however, salons are only supposed to refer to cosmetic benefits not medical claims – with good reason.

The Process

The good news is that tanning salons do not hide what they are doing – they merely try to reason it as healthy. One salon stated that in order to receive a base tan a client would have to be exposed to UVB lights to stimulate the production of melanin, turn the melanin pink, and bring the cells to the skin’s surface. Then the client could switch to UVA light to brown the melanin cells. Doesn’t it sound like your average sunburn that turns into a nice tan? The salon promises no peeling if you use one of their moisturizing lotions, oils, or gels.

There are two types of ultraviolet light that the sun sends to us: UVA and UVB. Both types are absorbed by our skin and cause damage to the skin’s cells. Ultraviolet light from the sun or an artificial source may lead to sun spots, premature wrinkling, and possibly skin cancer. The change in color of your skin–whether it is red or a slow building brown–is your body’s natural reaction to the harmful exposure.

The Truth

If exposure to UVA and UVB rays are not harmful, why has the National Weather Service and the Environmental Protection Agency developed the UV Index? This national service measures how much ultraviolet radiation is reaching the ground on a given day based upon the ozone levels, forecasted cloud amounts, and the elevation of the particular area. The scale ranges from 0 to 10+ (minimal to very high) and is provided so people will take extra precautions when the index predicts exposure levels of moderate to above (5 – 10+). Most tanning bulbs have a high UVA output with a small percentage of UVB. Salons usually fail to tell you that unlike a stroll on the beach, you are exposing ten times more skin in a tanning bed.

Why would you expose yourself–and pay money to do so–to the risks of tanning? Take the money that you would spend on tanning and plan an excursion; just don’t forget the sunscreen, wide-brimmed hat, protective clothing, and UVA/UVB absorbing sunglasses.