What is Tanning Really Doing to Your Skin?

There’s no such thing as a healthy tan, whether you’ve done it naturally or with the use of a sun bed. Exposing yourself to too much ultraviolet radiation is extremely dangerous for your health, leading to sunburn, eye damage, and an increased risk of skin cancer. In order to really protect yourself from this damage, you should educate yourself on the risks of the sun and how you can protect your skin in the future. Ultraviolet, or UV, rays are a type of invisible light given off by the sun and certain kinds of lamps such as tanning beds. There are differences between UVA and UVB rays, such as how deep they penetrate the skin, but both are associated with health risks and sun lamps emit both kinds. Depending on the kind of sunbed you’re using will depend on how strong the lamp is, and as such how strong the exposure to these damaging rays is. Studies show that a tanning bed can emit up to 15 times the amount of UVA radiation that the sun produces. This goes some way to showing just how damaging these rays are.


Exposing your skin to UV rays produces a tanned effect, which has become increasingly desirable in recent years. You may think you’re achieving that healthy glow you’ve been craving, but the reality is that a tan is the sign of damaged skin. Many people also mistakenly believe that tanning on  sunbed provides a certain level of natural protection from sunburn on holidays to sunnier climes. This isn’t true, and actually provides very limited protection from solar UV. It’s not all bad news, of course – sunbeds do help to kill germs and treat some skin conditions, such as rickets, eczema and psoriasis, but the UV radiation you’re exposed to far outweighs the benefits. You shouldn’t attempt to treat these conditions with UV radiation without consulting your GP first, as it can be very dangerous. One of the common associations with UV radiation is that your body produces the much-sought after vitamin D after your skin is exposed to it. Your body can change how much this happens though, such as your skin pigmentation, age and how much sunscreen you use. In addition to this, there have been no studies as to whether UV-induced vitamin D synthesis can happen without increasing your risk of skin cancer. You can source vitamin D far more safely from your diet, by eating more eggs, fish and fortified products like bread and cereal. Supplements are also useful if you’re finding that you’re not getting enough vitamin D through your diet alone.

If you are exposing yourself to solar UV radiation, you should try to protect your skin as best you can. Try to find shade where possible, and always wear sunscreen to protect your skin. Wear protective clothing, such as sunglasses and a hat, and try to avoid sitting in the direct sunlight between 11am and 4pm as this is when it is at its strongest. If you have young children, they should be discouraged from spending too much time out in the sun. If you are going to use sunbeds, make sure that you follow safe practices outlined by the staff and check that the bed you’re using has been labelled for safety, so that you know it is as safe as it can be. Too much sun exposure can be very dangerous, as well as causing premature ageing, so it’s best to avoid it where possible to keep your skin healthy.

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