Visiting a tanning salon may seem like a great way to achieve glowing bronze skin. Unfortunately, ultraviolet radiation can be harmful to skin, and tans, like sunburns, are a sign that skin has been exposed to excessive UV radiation. Tanning beds can be even more dangerous than too much natural sunlight.

Risk of Skin Cancer

Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation is a leading cause of skin cancer. Fair-skinned people are the most vulnerable to the negative effects of UV rays because their skin contains less melanin, which helps to protect the cells. Ultraviolet radiation can be dangerous enough on its own, but tanning lamps also emit carcinogens like radium and plutonium. Tanning beds increase the risk of melanoma, which is the least common form of skin cancer, but it is the most dangerous when it is caught too late. Indoor tanning is also linked to melanoma of the eye. Other forms of skin cancer correlated with the use of tanning beds are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Negative Cosmetic Effects

In addition to life-threatening risks like cancer, there are also cosmetic downsides to tanning beds. Tanned skin may seem attractive at first, but the UV rays from tanning beds harm cellular tissue. Damage caused by UV rays is known as photoaging, which includes undesirable effects like premature wrinkles and age spots. Skin can lose elasticity and become “leathery” in texture. Blood vessels can become dilated, which results in what is known as “spider veins.”

UVA vs. UVB Radiation

Sunlight has many health benefits as long as it is not absorbed in excess. Spending time in the sun can decrease depression. The UVB rays from natural sunlight enable the body to produce Vitamin D, which promotes strong bones and reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease. However, tanning beds mostly produce UVA rays. These rays are responsible for the bronze skin customers desire and are less likely to cause burns, but they have none of the benefits of UVB rays.

Though outdoor activity is recommended for Vitamin D production, prolonged exposure to the sun without sunscreen harms skin. Tanning salons often claim that their lamps are safe, but to maintain healthy skin and avoid the risk of cancer, staying away from tanning beds is the best choice.