Tanning Beds: Don’t Get Caught In the Dark

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Winter white is a wonderful sight on Christmas morning.  But for a swimwear model, any thing less than a golden bronze tan can be a career killer.  For those of us in colder climates who have plenty of loose change to spend, you always  have the option of jumping the next plane to Cancun for a few days of fun in the sun and natural tanning.  For the rest of us, the only solutions are artificial ones.  In a past article, we discussed the benefits of spray tanning over tanning beds.  But it seems tanning beds aren’t leaving town any time soon and people continue to use them.  If you must tan in a bed, we hope you read this article and go in armed with some facts to make your tanning sessions safer and effective.


A sun tan is the result of our body’s defense mechanisms against harmful Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun.  In response to sun exposure we produce melanin, a natural pigment, to block those UV rays from penetrating and damaging the skin.  Ultraviolet comes in 2 varieties we need concern ourselves with: UVA and UVB.    UVA are long wave rays that penetrate deeper and do more damage, while UVB are shorter waves that penetrate the surface skin only.  Both UV types can damage tissues, contribute to premature aging, and can cause cancers and other issues.


A variety of tanning beds exist, but can be broken down into the broad categories of Low Pressure and High Pressure (“pressure” indicates the type of bulbs used).  Low Pressure beds are the original tanning bed technology, and still widely in use today.  They emit far more UVB rays than newer design High Pressure beds which produce mostly UVA.  Which is better?  High pressure offers the benefit of less harmful UVB, faster tanning, and less frequency of tanning sessions required.


We cannot stress this enough: protect your skin!  And when it comes to tanning beds, sunscreen is not the solution.  Sunscreens only defeat the purpose of going in for artificial tanning.  Instead, use time as your safety net, and starting out with short sessions at first and build up to longer times.  Some of the new tanning beds may only require 8 – 12 minutes for a session, and that’s not a lot of margin for error if you stay in too long.  Always err on the side of caution.  And be sure to avoid “tanning accelerators” which at best are a waste of money, and at worst can cause more harm than good.


The American Cancer Society, Skin Cancer Foundation, and most physicians will all agree the best defense against skin cancer is avoidance of the sun, wearing skin-protecting clothing, and use of sun screen.  More lenient doctors may grant you 15 minutes of natural sun time before the need to worry about covering up or heading into the shade.  But one thing is for certain, that UV rays can cause a lot of damage.  Anyone who has had a nasty sunburn will agree and the risks run greater than just lobster skin or a bad tan line.   Medical studies have shown that users of tanning beds run significantly higher risks of UV related skin cancers, vision impairment and cataracts, and premature aging.


Spray tanning still seems to be your safest, best bet for a golden bronze without regrets later in your golden years.