Skin Aging

On areas that are typically exposed to the sun, up to 90% of skin aging is due to the effects of UV radiation.37 The same kind that you’re bombarded with every time you lie in a tanning bed.

When skin prematurely ages due to exposure to UV radiation, it’s called photoaging; where UV rays penetrate both the outer and inner layers of your skin and damage the collagen and elastin that keeps your skin resilient and youthful. This results in a ton of different physical effects ranging from sun spots to wrinkles.

Early signs of
premature aging
due totanning

  • 38

Later Signs

  • Deep creases around the eyes and mouth
  • Forehead frown lines set in and can be seen when not frowning
  • Leathery and sagging skin
  • Age spots appear on the face and hands
  • Broken blood vessels on the nose and cheeks
  • Lips are drawn, pale and thin
  • Red, rough scaly spots, which may be pre-cancerous and require treatment.39

The Bottom Line

While you’re busy getting a tan, UV rays are busy altering the very structure of your skin—making you look older, faster.

View References

  • 37 Gilchrest, BA: Skin and Aging Processes 1984 CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 130 pp.
  • 38 Canadian Dermatology Association. (2011). "What is Photoaging" Retrieved November 4th 2011 from dermatology.ca
  • 39 Canadian Dermatology Association. (2011). "What is Photoaging" Retrieved November 4th 2011 from dermatology.ca

Hygienic Risks

Skin cancer isn’t the only thing you can pick up at the tanning salon. Poor cleaning practices can leave you exposed to HPV (human papillomavirus, AKA genital warts) and a variety of skin infections.

There are 10 different types of skin afflictions or microbes that can be transmitted by an unclean tanning bed.30 These can include warts,31 skin rashes,32 flaky discoloured patches,33 HPV and bacteria found in fecal matter.34

Skin cancer isn’t the only thing you can pick up at the salon.

Health Canada has issued infection control guidelines to ensure your tanning bed is properly sanitised before you climb in. Unfortunately, studies in developed countries have shown that tanning beds are only properly sanitized 79% of the time.36 This means you are taking the risk that roughly one out of every five tanning beds hasn’t been properly cleaned.

The Bottom Line

Unsanitized tanning beds are pretty gross, and if you have any kind of cut or open wound, lying in one of these beds could result in serious skin or other infection.35

View References

  • 30 Russak, J. E., & Rigel, D. S. (2010). Tanning bed hygiene: microbes found on tanning beds present a potential health risk. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 62(1), 155-157.
  • 31 Perniciaro C, Dicken CH. (1988). Tanning bed warts. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, March 18(3), 586-587.
  • 32 Ciconte, A., & Bekhor, P. (2007). Lichen striatus following solarium exposure. Australasian Journal of Dermatology, 48(2), 99-101.
  • 33 Kersey, P. W., & Caldwell, I. I. (1983). Sunbeds. British Medical Journal, 286(6366), 720.
  • 34 Russak, J. E., & Rigel, D. S. (2010). Tanning bed hygiene: microbes found on tanning beds present a potential health risk. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 62(1), 155-157.
  • 35 C.D. Owens, K. Stoessel. (2008) Surgical site infections: epidemiology, microbiology and prevention. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 27(2), 199-203.
  • 36 Gavin A. A., Donnelly, C. C., Devlin, A. A., Devereux, C. C., O’Callaghan, G. G., McElwee, G. G., & … O’Hagan, A. H. (2010) Public at risk: a survey of sunbed parlour operating practices in Northern Ireland. British Journal of Dermatology, 162(3), 627-632.

Eye Damage

Direct sunlight can cause permanent damage to your eyes, and a tanning bed is no different. So, if you’ve ever forgotten your tanning goggles at home or thought you’d go without so you didn’t end up looking like a raccoon, think again.

Tanning without Goggles can result in permanent damage to your retina

Overexposure to UV radiation and bright light can result in damage to your retina and permanent loss of vision. UV radiation over time may also increase the risk of developing cataracts.

Different parts of your eye absorb different kinds of UV radiation and light.

  • The surface layers of your eyeball (the cornea and the conjunctiva) absorb UVB rays40
  • The lens absorbs UVA rays
  • The lining at the back of your inner eyeball (the retina) absorbs visible light.41

The Bottom Line

All of these types of light are present in large amounts in a tanning bed, which makes it a very dangerous place for your eyes.

View References

  • 40 Health Canada Website. (2010). Sunglasses. November 23, 2011 from: Link
  • 41 Health Canada Website. (2010). Sunglasses. November 23, 2011 from: Link

Addiction

Surveys have shown that 70% of frequent indoor tanners meet the same criteria for dependency as those suffering from alcoholism and other types of substance abuse.42 Endorphin release and other effects of tanning can create a physical and mental dependency.

Hooked On Tanning

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV (DSM-IV) is a tool used by doctors to determine a dependence on a particular behaviour. Studies have shown that frequent tanners fit these criteria of dependency, such as difficulty decreasing the frequency of tanning, feeling annoyed when others comment on their habit and organizing their lives around tanning sessions.43 Frequent tanners have reported that they feel cravings and even experience a kind of withdrawal when they cannot tan.44

The Bottom Line

Indoor tanning may lead to an unhealthy dependence or addiction in some individuals.

View References

  • 42 Feldman SR, Ligouri A, Kucenic M, Rapp SR, Fleischer AB Jr., Lang W, Kaur M. (2004) Ultraviolet exposure is a reinforcing stimulus in frequent indoor tanners. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 51(1), 45-51.
  • 43 Harrington, C.R., Beswick, T.C., Leitenberger, J., Minhajuddin, A., Jacobe H.T., Adinoff, B. Addictive-like behaviours to ultraviolet light among frequent indoor tanners. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology. 2010 (36):33-38
  • 44 Harrington, C.R., Beswick, T.C., Leitenberger, J., Minhajuddin, A., Jacobe H.T., Adinoff, B. Addictive-like behaviours to ultraviolet light among frequent indoor tanners. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology. 2010 (36):33-38

Injury

The analysis of data from 66 U.S hospital emergency departments showed an annual average of 3,234 tanning bed injury related visits between 2003 and 2013.48 Most of these injuries were in females (82.2%), aged 18-24 years (35.5%), non-Hispanic whites (77.8%)—the population with the highest rates of indoor tanning.

In addition to the risks of melanoma and other skin cancers, indoor tanners can sustain painful UV burns, eye injuries, syncopal (fainting) episodes and skin infections that may be serious enough to require emergency medical care.

The Bottom Line

Thousands of times each year, a “harmless” trip to the tanning salon results in a trip to the emergency room.

View References

  • 48 Guy, Gery P., et al. "Indoor Tanning–Related Injuries Treated in a National Sample of US Hospital Emergency Departments." JAMA Internal Medicine. 2014.