A tanning bed is an indoor device which emits ultraviolet radiation and is commonly used to obtain a cosmetic tan. This device was developed primarily for medicinal purposes, but over the years, it has been converted into a cosmetic tool. Now indoor tanning is a flourishing industry with the number of visitors to the tanning salons increasing day by day. Home tanning beds are also available for the convenience of users. Achieving a wonderful tan is the main purpose behind the usage of these devices, but there are many added advantages and benefits too.
Tanning beds are beneficial in many ways that can be categorized into two different sections. When compared to outdoor tanning, this device is convenient. So the first section deals with the advantages of tanning beds over conventional outdoor tanning. The second section is slightly controversial. It deals with the health benefits of tanning beds. Most of the claims are still debated, and you may get confused with contradictory views and statements. Let us start with the benefits offered by tanning beds, as compared to outdoor tanning, from the user’s point of view.
Benefits from the User’s Point of View
Fast Results: As compared to outdoor tanning, tanning beds offer a quicker tan in a lesser time. Instead of spending lengthy hours in the sun to get a tan, a tanning bed session lasts for only 10 to 20 minutes. This tan can be maintained by undergoing one or two sessions per week.
Convenience: Those who work for long hours and those who live in urban areas may not get sufficient time for outdoor tanning. Hence, this device is very much convenient for such people.
Controlled Emission: Some people use tanning beds because this device allows them to control exposure to ultraviolet rays. It can be set to emit the desired dosage of UV rays.
Privacy: Tanning beds offer privacy to the user, which is not always possible in outdoor tanning. Some people find it embarrassing to wear skimpy clothes in public.
Anytime Tanning: Outdoor tanning may not be possible throughout the year, especially in winters and in countries where full-fledged sunlight is rare. In such cases, tanning beds are of great help.
Even Tan: These devices can provide you with an even tan, as the rays are emitted from all sides in a uniform manner. This is not always possible in case of outdoor tanning.
Synthesis of Vitamin D: Exposure to ultraviolet rays helps the body to produce vitamin D, which is essential to prevent diseases like osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, heart diseases, and certain types of cancer. According to the exponents of tanning beds, these devices are best for those with vitamin D deficiency. This claim is supported by a comparative study which was conducted on tanning bed users and non-users. As per the results, vitamin D level as well as the bone mineral density (in the hip) were higher in tanning bed users. This may point towards lack of sunlight exposure in the second group.
On the contrary, it is claimed that most of the tanning beds primarily emit ultraviolet A rays, which are not that effective in vitamin D synthesis, as ultraviolet B rays. Studies show that moderate sunlight exposure on a regular basis is adequate to produce the required amount of previtamin D3 in the human body. Once this stable amount is produced, further exposure is of no use, as far as vitamin D production is concerned. A single tanning bed session is thus considered as overexposure to radiation, which may turn harmful, in the long run. So the risks of tanning beds outweigh their so-called health benefits.
Reduced Cancer Risk? According to the proponents of tanning beds, the devices help synthesis of vitamin D in the body, thereby reducing the risk of certain types of cancer that are linked to deficiency of this vitamin. When compared to this benefit, the risk of developing cutaneous malignant melanoma through use of tanning bed is meager. With a high rate of increase in vitamin D deficiency and resultant diseases, tanning beds are claimed to be the ideal option.
Various studies have indicated the risk of skin cancer (melanoma and non-melanoma) in those who use tanning beds. According to a 2003 WHO (World Health Organization) report, overexposure to UV radiation is a cause of concern. Apart from sun exposure, sources like tanning beds (especially, those which emit high levels of UVB rays) are also linked to skin cancer, eye problems, and suppressed immune system.
These devices are also used for UVB light therapy to treat skin diseases like, psoriasis and eczema. It is said that the ultraviolet rays are responsible for this therapeutic effect, which is also helpful to dry out acne.
Some studies show that tanning beds can positively affect the mental state of the user. Many people felt happier and more relaxed after their tanning sessions. This could be due to the increased levels of endorphin (an analgesic neurochemical occurring naturally in the brain) in the body, after the tanning session.
Tanning beds are claimed to be beneficial in treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD, which is also known as winter depression or winter blues, is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout the year experience depressive symptoms during the winter. It may be the ‘feel good’ factor of tanning beds, which is responsible for the positive effects on SAD patients. However, there is no evidence to prove this claim.
It is also said that the tan developed by using a tanning bed can be an effective sun block. In fact, such a base tan has a natural SPF of only 2 to 4, whereas the sun protective lotions have SPF of above 30. Hence, you should use sunscreen lotions, even if you have a base tan.
It is believed that the heat produced by tanning beds is beneficial for relief from muscle pain.
In short, tanning beds are ideal for those vying for a great tan, without much difficulty. However, overexposure to radiation is not advisable, as the risks may sometimes outweigh the benefits.
It is always advisable to use tanning bed lotions and after tan lotions, to avoid skin damage. Make sure to visit those salons that conduct a skin study, beforehand. Fair-skinned people are more prone to develop side effects after getting exposed to UV radiation. Use of certain cosmetics and medication may also cause some side effects. The duration of a tanning session is decided according to the skin type of the user. Never exceed this time limit.
The risks associated with outdoor tanning are applicable for indoor tanning too. Even though tanning beds are beneficial and advantageous in many ways, there are health concerns regarding this device. Overexposure to UV radiation may lead to sunburn, premature wrinkles, damage to the eyes, etc. Apart from that, there is an increased risk of skin cancer. It is also said that such long-term exposure can weaken the immune system, thereby leading to diseases. While some health experts believe that indoor tanning before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma, some others advise to avoid such tanning before the age of 18. The use of tanning beds has been regulated by law in many countries. While Brazil has banned the use of these devices, some countries have prohibited the use of tanning beds for minors, who are under the age of 18.