While indoor tanning is a cosmetic service, a well-known side effect of exposing the skin to ultraviolet (UV) light is the production of vitamin D. Emerging evidence suggests that there may be an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in North America. Research also suggests that vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining good health. In light of this evidence, the Indoor Tanning Association believes that the health benefits of indoor tanning deserve further research.
Europeans started tanning indoors with sunlamps that emitted ultraviolet light as a therapeutic exercise to harness the positive psychological and physiological effects of UV exposure. Long before the first tanning facility was established in the United States in the late 1970s, the practice of visiting a “solaria” for the positive effects of UV light was widespread in Europe, particularly in the sun-deprived, northern countries. Although indoor tanning is considered a cosmetic exercise in the United States, the industry’s roots are therapeutic, and many Americans do in fact visit tanning facilities for that purpose.
The science of photobiology, which studies the effects of light on life, was founded on studying the positive effects of sunlight. Indeed, the 1903 Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine was awarded to Dr. Niels Finsen for his work treating the disease lupus vulgaris with ultraviolet light. While the indoor tanning industry in the United States promotes its services for cosmetic purposes, the fact remains that exposing the skin to ultraviolet light is the body’s primary means of producing vitamin D (which in turn is related to positive physiological effects). Exposure to UV light is also responsible for the production of endorphins and serotonin (which in turn is related to positive psychological effects).