Tanning: 11 myths about this popular practice.
- Myth No. 1: Artificial tanning is safer than sun exposure
- Myth No. 2: Just before going on holiday, it is necessary to get a base tan to prevent damage caused by the sun
- Myth No. 3: Artificial tanning is necessary to ensure a sufficient intake of Vitamin D
- Myth No. 4: Tanning isn't as harmful for teenagers and young people
- Myth No. 5: Twenty minutes on a tanning bed is equivalent to twenty minutes in the sun..
- Myth No. 6: Tanning beds are designed to emit UV rays that prevent premature skin ageing
- Myth No. 7: Sun damage is temporary. If we take a break between sun exposures, the skin fully recovers
- Myth No. 8: Artificial tanning does not cause skin cancer
- Myth No. 9: Indoor tanning is safer than sunbathing
- Myth No. 10: Artificial tanning is a safe, effective, and less expensive alternative to doctor-supervised phototherapy
- Myth No. 11: Only sun worshippers can get skin cancer
Myth No. 1: Artificial tanning is safer than sun exposure.
Sunbeds emit rays of an intensity three to five times greater than that of midday sun. Tanning lamps produce enough UVB rays to cause burns. Furthermore, contrary to long-held belief, UVA rays are not less dangerous than UVB rays and are also carcinogenic.
Myth No. 2: Just before going on holiday, it is necessary to get a base tan to prevent damage caused by the sun.
Artificial or even natural tanning does not provide effective protection against sunburn during holidays in the South. Tanning equates only to a sun protection factor (SPF) of 2 to 3, which means that one gets sunburnt upon arrival at their dream destination. The best protection involves using common sense by applying a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, wearing a hat and long sleeves, and staying in the shade. Not to mention that using a tanning bed before the age of 30 increases the risk of melanoma by 75%. And the more one tans, the higher the risk increases.
Myth No. 3: Artificial tanning is necessary to ensure a sufficient intake of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is synthesised by the skin when exposed to UVB rays, whereas tanning lamps predominantly emit UVA rays. Furthermore, it is not necessary to tan, let alone get sunburnt, to obtain a sufficient dose of Vitamin D. Moderate exposure during a walk provides a good amount of Vitamin D, and this vitamin can also be found in foods such as certain dairy products, eggs, fish, etc. In Canada, the Vitamin D found in food generally covers the required intake.
Myth No. 4: Tanning isn't as harmful for teenagers and young people.
Tanning for teenagers and young adults is even more dangerous than for adults. Studies show that the risk of melanoma increases by 75% when exposure to sunlamps begins before the age of 30.
Individuals with fair skin, blue eyes, red or blonde hair, or freckles often struggle to tan. Their skin easily burns and is prone to developing brown spots. However, all skin types are damaged by excessive sun exposure. Tanning is not beneficial for health. It triggers premature skin ageing, wrinkles, and brown spots, and can instigate skin cancer.
Myth No. 5: Twenty minutes on a tanning bed is equivalent to twenty minutes in the sun...
In fact, twenty minutes of exposure to sunbed lamps is equivalent to two hours on a beach under midday sun without any protection. Tanning salons bombard the skin with UVA rays that are three to five times more intense than the sun. Now, you understand why skin protection is in vogue.
Myth No. 6: Tanning beds are designed to emit UV rays that prevent premature skin ageing.
Your skin will age more rapidly if you expose it to sun lamps, as these emit UVA rays, which are responsible for skin ageing, at an intensity three to five times greater than that of sunlight.
Myth No. 7: Sun damage is temporary. If we take a break between sun exposures, the skin fully recovers.
The damaging effects of the sun accumulate over time. Even if superficial skin damage such as redness or sunburn disappears, the underlying damage remains. A cancer can take from 10 to 30 years to appear after repeated exposure. The younger you are, the greater the risks.
Myth No. 8: Artificial tanning does not cause skin cancer.
The link between exposure to UV rays (UVA and UVB) and skin cancer has been known for a long time. Cases of skin cancer, particularly melanoma, are increasingly occurring in younger individuals. The use of artificial tanning beds before the age of 35 increases the risk of developing melanoma by 75%. Sunburns increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Just 12 artificial tanning sessions per year are enough to increase the risk of skin cancer.
Myth No. 9: Indoor tanning is safer than sunbathing.
Some enthusiasts of artificial tanning argue that because tanning devices primarily use UVA light, tanning in this manner is safer than lying in the sun. This is not true. While we used to think that UVA light only caused skin ageing, we now know that its longer wavelength penetrates deeper into the skin and is strongly linked to melanoma. A study of 63 women diagnosed with melanoma before the age of 30 found that 61 of them (97%) had used tanning beds. A single visit to the tanning salon significantly increases your chances of developing a cancer that can kill you. There is nothing safe about this.
Myth No. 10: Artificial tanning is a safe, effective, and less expensive alternative to doctor-supervised phototherapy.
People in the tanning industry may tell customers that doctors put people in their light boxes because they are therapeutic for psoriasis and other skin conditions. Firstly, it is important to understand that the machines used in tanning salons bear no resemblance to the light boxes we have in medical practices today. And we use them far less than we used to due to new treatments such as biologic drugs.
Today, many dermatologists utilise the excimer laser or what we refer to as narrowband UVB for psoriasis, and we only treat the skin plaques, not necessarily the entire body. The doctor limits the dose and shields the rest of the body with sunscreen or protective sheets and clothing. If it involves the whole body, it's typically because an individual is severely affected by psoriasis and may not be able to be exposed to biologic drugs, has a history of tuberculosis, is immunocompromised, or has other medical issues. We know that using narrowband UVB for treatment could cause other problems later on, such as skin cancer. It's a trade-off. And patients sign an informed consent that they understand.
Myth No. 11: Only sun worshippers can get skin cancer.
FALSE: Excessive sun exposure does not only occur when one deliberately seeks to tan. In an environment with high UV levels, such as in France during the summer, we can be exposed to dangerous levels of UV radiation during any daily activity, such as outdoor work, gardening, walking the dog, or having a picnic. This sun exposure accumulates over time, increasing the risk of skin cancer.