Into the Light of Day: Exposing the Myths of “Safe” Indoor Tanning

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Jayme Bashian, Aesthetician with Advanced Dermatology PC’s Simply Posh Aesthetic Spa, Shares Tips That Reveal the Truth about Tanning Beds.

Jayme Bashian

One routine that skin specialists hope people won’t continue post COVID-19 is their regular tanning-bed session.

“Now more than ever, we all crave our normal routines,” notes Jayme Bashian, lead medical aesthetician of Simply Posh Aesthetic Spa, a division of Advanced Dermatology PC. “But one routine that skin specialists hope people won’t continue post COVID-19 is their regular tanning-bed session.”

While cancer-awareness campaigns have helped reduce the number of indoor tanners, millions still make appointments to tan. “A tanning routine,” advises Bashian, “has the opposite effect of what is desired: Indoor tanning accelerates our skin’s aging, making us look older. Indoor tanning also makes us less healthy, increasing our risk of skin cancer, including its deadliest form, melanoma.”

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world. In the United States, cases outnumber all other cancers combined, according to the not-for-profit Skin Cancer Foundation.

Just one indoor tanning session can increase cancer risk by almost seventy percent, the American Academy of Dermatology reports. Tanning devices’ threat is so great that the World Health Organization lists them as Group 1 carcinogens, alongside plutonium and cigarettes. Underscoring the danger, in 2014, the FDA upped its own specified level of cancer risk for tanning equipment, which must carry warning labels.

“Indoor tanning,” emphasizes Bashian “is implicated in more cases of skin cancer than cigarettes are in lung cancer. This frightening reality can be obscured by what some consider a tan’s ‘healthy’ appearance. Add in that gyms across the country offer tanning beds alongside exercise, and people may be getting mixed messages.”

“Also,” continues Bashian, “there may be confusion with phototherapy skin treatments. But a skin specialist’s application of light rays is very different than an indoor tanning bed.”

To help people separate the fact from the fiction, Bashian offers the following advice:    

Real Facts to Bust 5 Indoor-Tanning Myths
Myth 1: Indoor tanning provides a protective ‘base tan’: “There is no such thing as ‘base tan’ protection,” says Bashian. “The darker pigment that UV rays trigger equals skin damage. What’s more, indoor tanners may think they don’t need outdoor sun protection and end up with additional sunburn: Research shows those who tan indoors also report getting more sunburns.”

Myth 2: Indoor tanning boosts vitamin D, supporting your immune system: “Tanning beds primarily rely on UVA rays,” explains Bashian, “which do not help with vitamin D. Rather, the sun’s UVB rays trigger our vitamin D production. Fortunately, we can also get our D from foods, like fish and fortified milk and orange juice, as well as supplements. Getting D from our diet does not carry any risk of skin cancer.”

Myth 3: Indoor tanning will help you look younger: “Just the opposite,” notes Bashian. “The UVA rays primarily produced in tanning beds are the prime culprits of skin aging: They penetrate our skin more deeply, accelerating wrinkles. The more time we spend in a tanning bed, the older our skin looks.”

Myth 4: Indoor tanning is like phototherapy at the dermatologist’s: ”Skin specialists use light therapies to treat different conditions,” Bashian states. “However, these treatments are very different than a commercial tanning bed’s UV exposure. A skin specialist precisely applies specific wavelengths to targeted areas, for example using certain UVB wavelengths to treat psoriasis. On the other hand, tanning salon devices are not designed for dermatological applications: They lack control over specific wavelengths and are neither precise nor targeted. In fact, tanning beds can exacerbate skin problems.”

Myth 5: Industry research proves indoor tanning is safe: “We need to check sources carefully,” advises Bashian. “Unfortunately, some ‘research’ gets funding from the indoor-tanning industry. When we separate out independent studies, the consensus is overwhelming regarding the dangers of indoor tanning.”

“The familiar routines of our lives may be comfortable and comforting,” concludes Bashian. “But the choice to protect our skin from cancer can become part of our routines – and help us to live healthier lives.”

Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) is one of the leading dermatology centers in the nation, offering highly experienced physicians in the fields of cosmetic and laser dermatology as well as plastic surgery and state-of-the-art medical technologies.

Bio: Jayme Bashian is the lead medical aesthetician for the Simply Posh Aesthetic Spa, a division of Advanced Dermatology PC and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery. She is board-certified in aesthetics and works alongside leading cosmetic surgeons, who specialize in advanced aesthetics and cosmetic surgery.

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