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Why You Should Reconsider Tanning

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and we wanted to send out a public service announcement: Tanning is dangerous. There are no two ways about it. The fact of the matter is this: you should not go tanning–tanning is bad for you. Whether going to a tanning salon or laying out in the sunshine, tanning doesn’t just damage your skin; it damages your DNA.

For many years, tanning salons touted the benefits of indoor tanning, citing the body’s need for vitamin D and promoting the cultural custom that tan skin is beautiful skin. However, tanning is so dangerous that the FDA requires warning labels on the machines, and one session of tanning increases your risk of skin cancer.

Skin cancer should not be the result of a cultural fad. But alas, the cultural fad of tanning is causing skin cancer, premature skin aging, retinal damage, and immune system suppression. Support skin healthy, eye health, and overall health and wellness by protecting your skin from the harmful effects of tanning.


Tanning Damages Your Skin

It’s no secret that tanning damages your skin, causing wrinkles, aging skin, and uneven pigmentation. Tanning also damages your DNA. Our skin has repair mechanisms to repair the DNA. However, when these mechanisms get overwhelmed, your DNA can mutate, causing skin cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one session of indoor tanning can increase your chances of melanoma by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67%, and basal cell carcinoma by 29% (“10 Surprising Facts About Indoor Tanning”).  


A Base Tan is as Bad as a Sunburn

Radiation is radiation. A tan is a result of radiation. Even a base tan means that you have been exposed to radiation, and with radiation comes the risk of DNA damage and mutation.


There is a Difference Between Sunbathing and Going to a Tanning Salon

Yes. Tanning salons are much worse for you than sunbathing since they emit a much higher concentration of UVA rays than natural sunlight. Since tanning beds are concentrated UVA rays, you’re getting bombarded by the most dangerous kind of UV exposure. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, people who tan in a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 59% (“Indoor Tanning”).

Additionally, while many touted the fact that tanning salons could help you create more vitamin D during months with less sunlight, this is not true. Your body needs UVB rays to make vitamin D.


Is There Such a Thing as a “Healthy Tan”?

No. No tan is healthy. A tan is the result of injury caused by the UV radiation. No matter how tan you are, your skin still experienced damage, your repair mechanisms were still engaged, and DNA mutations are still a possibility.


Is Any Amount of Sun Exposure Healthy?

Vitamin D is important for your overall wellness. It is easy to take a Vitamin D supplement daily or even just a few times a week to maintain adequate levels in healthy individuals. You can even, with being outside during the day wearing your sunscreen, still obtain Vitamin D from the sun. The trick is to go outside and enjoy it with sunscreen, but not to put yourself directly in the sun for a prolonged time. Preventing skin cancer is the best way to treat it, and every time you get that sun-induced bronze, you are adding to your risk for skin cancer.

You can, of course get a tan due to incidental sun exposure, but you do need to be careful on how long you are out in the sun at a given time.


Skin Cancer is a Serious Problem

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and according to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point (“Skin Cancer”). Tanning, be it indoor tanning or sunbathing on the beach, increases your risk for skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more people will develop skin cancer from indoor tanning than the number of people who will develop lung cancer from smoking (“Skin Cancer Facts & Statistics”).

Don’t be one of them.


Tanning is a Social Construct

Historically speaking, tanning is a new trend. In ancient Egypt, Nofret’s fair skin was a sign of high rank. In the middle ages in Europe, pale skin was a marker of privilege, a sign of one not needing to spend his or her days working outside. In fact, pale skin remained a valued trait and symbol of beauty—something people worked for and used makeup and lotions to achieve—until the 1920s until Coco Chanel associated tanning with pleasure, health, and relaxation (“The Tale of Tanning”). This trend of tanning continued until very recently.

Tanning is a recent social construct and is not inherently beautiful. Your skin itself is intrinsically beautiful. You are beautiful. Together, we can change social constructs. Natural skin is a sign of health, beauty, and relaxation. The natural tones of your skin, of all skin tones, are beautiful.

Knowing what we know today, we can promote loving our own natural skin tones. We don’t need to tan or lighten our skin to be or feel beautiful.


The Bottom Line

Tanning is a result of exposure to UV rays, and any exposure to radiation is a risk. You can take steps to prevent skin cancer by limiting your exposure to UV rays from the sun. Get annual skin exams performed by a dermatologist to closely monitor any changes to your skin.

Your skin is beautiful exactly the way that it is. You don’t need to tan to look your best. Choose health over social constructs and a vibrant skin over tanned skin. With the right products and care, your skin can glow without any harmful UV rays.


If you have questions about your skin or want to know how you can best protect your skin from damage, call Aesthetic & Dermatology Center for a cosmetic consultation. Our skin experts will assess your skin and give you advice and recommendations based on your skin tones and skin type.



“Indoor Tanning.” American Academy of Dermatology.

“10 Surprising Facts About Indoor Tanning.” American Academy of Dermatology.

“Skin Cancer Facts & Statistics.” Skin Cancer Foundation.

“Skin Cancer.” American Academy of Dermatology.

“The Tale of Tanning.” Skin Cancer Foundation.