Tanning Beds

Are Tanning Beds useful for
Vitamin D production? Are all Beds the Same?

What you should look for in choosing a good Bed.





What is a "Tanning-Bed"?

A "tanning-bed" is also called a sunning bed. It is a machine that produces artificial light by imitating the sunlight that you get outdoors.

Most of these Beds produce two types of light that is similar to the sun. They are the Ultraviolet A (UVA) light and the Ultraviolet B (UVB) light.

The UVA light is not good and increases the risk of getting skin cancer. They burn your skin cells and damage the DNA of your body cells.

Contrary to what the manufacturers claim, the UVB light is actually the good light that helps your body produces Vitamin D. You can read more about how this UVB aids your body to produce Vitamin D Here. With good levels of Vitamin D in your body, you are actually reducing your risk of skin and other cancers.

Most Beds produces UVA light because that is what they want the UVA to do. It tans. It burns your skin and produces a skin-burnt tan.

If the beds produce only UVB, then you will not get a tan at all.

However, some beds do produce a mixture of UVA and UVB. You need to find out how much of UVB does it produces.

A tanning bed usually has about 27 to 60 numbers of 150 watts fluorescent tube lamps that are coated with various types of phosphors. Those beds that use metal halide lamps instead of fluorescent lamps, are called high pressure beds and they give out a much higher level of UVA light.

Some tanning beds are not beds at all but the tanning is done while the person is standing inside. These are called tanning booths. A proper tanning bed is when the person lies down on the inside.

With more manufacturers (especially those in China) clamoring for the health-conscious market, the price of a tanning bed has dropped to about USD 3,000 per unit as compared to the previously steep price of around USD 20,000 each. The newer models have less fluorescent lamps and are getting more efficient.

Most beds come with a recommended maximum exposure time and usually it is about 20 minutes. It is dangerous to go beyond the maximum time as you can read about this below.


Are Tanning Beds safe?

Are tanning beds safer or more dangerous than direct sunlight tanning?

It is a fact that the UVA light that comes from these beds are more powerful than those UVA that comes from the sun. The atmospheric particles and clouds reduce the impact of the UVA that comes from the sun. But when you are directly under the tanning lamps, there are no obstructions between your body and the lamps. You received the full impact of what is coming to you. Any damage is magnified.

For the sake of having a bronzed, tanned look, millions are still addicted to tanning beds even though the risk of skin damage is there.

Tanning bed vendors have promoted their product as absolutely safe but there is no safe tanning bed as per se. It is only safer for you if you monitor the tanning process properly and follow the instructions very carefully. For example, if you are to tan for 5 minutes and you do it for 15 minutes, then what is safe becomes unsafe for you. It is unsafe when the proper procedures are not followed.

The first effect of damage will be when your skin becomes increasingly pinkish. Then the surface will turn red before blisters start occurring. Eventually, you will be burnt (or "roasted"). This is similar to getting sun-burned.

Constant damage to the skin will lead to premature wrinkling and even skin cancer (melanoma).


EMF Radiation from Tanning Beds

Tanning beds have an additional danger that sunlight radiation does not have and that is EMF Radiation. EMF is the Electro Magnetic Field that is emitted from the magnetic ballasts of the fluorescent lamps. You can hear the buzzing sound coming from the vibration of the magnetic ballast in the beds.

EMF radiation has been known to cause cancer. This is similar to the EMF radiation from Power Lines, or those from Cell Phones.

Dr. David Carpenter, Dean at the School of Public Health, State University of New York states that most likely, up to 30% of all childhood cancers come from EMF Exposure.

Fortunately, some manufacturers are replacing these magnetic ballasts with electronic ballasts where the EMF radiation is greatly reduced.


Tanning Beds vs. Natural Sunlight

The Main difference between these beds and natural sunlight is the amount of UVB light.

UVB is present in abundance in natural sunlight. It is only present in small amounts or sometimes not at all in tanning beds. Most of these beds produce only UVA light.

UVB is important because it stimulates your body to produce Vitamin D. This Vitamin is essential for the body to absorb the calcium for mineralization of bones, proper cell development and reducing the risk of some cancers.

The UVA is the part that causes you to tan, get sun burned and eventually skin cancer.

Remember that the tanning of the skin is its natural defense mechanism to protect against burning due to UVA exposure. The UVA stimulates the production of melanin in your skin, and the more melanin is produced, the darker the skin will be.

Nowadays, manufacturers are catering towards a health conscious society. They are increasing the UVB radiation whilst reducing the UVA. Some even manufacture beds that produce only UVB which means that you will get good doses of Vitamin D without the tan.


What has Tanning Beds got to do with Vitamin D?

When sunlight shines on your skin, it causes the cholesterol (a waxy fat like substance that is produced by the liver) to synthesize Vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is very important for health and the function of Vitamin D is covered Here.

Sunlight has many parts (or wavelengths) and it is the Ultraviolet B part that stimulates the production of Vitamin D. The rest of the other parts of sunlight have nothing to do with Vitamin D production.

Some tanning salons promote their machines as producing lots of good Vitamin D, which is not totally correct. Indoor tanning can only produce Vitamin D if their beds emit UVB light. Be a knowledgeable tanner and check their machines.

The most natural source of Vitamin D is still natural sunlight. But if you live through winters or is seriously deficient in Vitamin D, then a good tanning bed is the next alternative.

If the beds produce only UVA light then you will not have any production of Vitamin D.

That brings us to the next question:


Why do you want to use a Tanning Bed?

There are only Two reasons for using a Tanning Bed.

One is that you want to get healthy doses of Vitamin D from the UVB light especially if you are staying in a region where the sun seldom shines or the winters are dark and long or you are suffering from Vitamin D deficiency. This is important if you want to build up your cancer resistance.

The second reason is that you are interested in getting a bronzed body tan. If this is the reason, then you must take the necessary precautions. Monitor the condition of your skin continuously to check on how you are responding to the UVA radiation. When your skin starts to burn, stop using the tanning bed immediately and do not restart until you are totally healed.

A Tanning Bed has its advantages. The most common reason for owning one is the convenience. You can operate it even at weird hours of the night and still enjoy a good tan. Also, it is a personal luxury item where your privacy of tanning is assured.


What are the Dangers of UVA Radiation?

There is a saying that goes "what you sow, you shall reap".

If that is the case, then a continuous use of UVA tanning will lead to premature wrinkling of the skin, dryness of the skin, damage to the eyes, cataract formation, immune system changes and even skin cancer.

Skin cancer is a very common form of cancer and up to 90 percent of all skin cancers are related to UVA exposure.

For years, it was a common pastime for New Zealanders and Aussies to laze for hours in the sun especially so after the long winter months. However with the depletion of the Ozone layer in the atmosphere over the Antarctica, the UVA radiation from the sun rays have became more intense.

Their skin cancer rates are among the highest in the world. The incidence of skin cancer in New Zealand and Australia is about four times higher than in Canada, US and UK.

Improper use of Tanning Beds can also simulate the high levels of UVA radiation damage such as skin cancer.

In the US, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) claims that if a person uses a tanning bed more than once a month, the risk of skin cancer is increased by more than 55 percent.

For this reason, tanners should limit their exposure to only creating the tan and no longer than necessary.


Who should take greater precaution when using Tanning Beds?

Some people have a greater risk of ailment problems with indoor tanning than others. Different people have different body resistance to these problems.

The following is not a complete list and is not meant as a general rule for all.

These people have a greater risk:

  • Those who have fair skin or light colored skin.
  • Those who get sun burn easily even when exposed to sunlight.
  • Those who are always outdoors and already exposed to lots of UVA radiation.
  • Those who have a family history of skin cancer or have received treatment for skin cancer before.
  • Those who spend lots of time at high altitudes as UVA exposure increases with altitude.
  • Those who work indoors and catch up for long hours in the sun when off-work.


Tanning Salons or Spas

Tanning Salons or Spas are public premises operated by businesses to provide tanning beds or tanning booths for customers.

Because they operate as health centers, many of them are regulated by government agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and required to meet certain standards of safety and health.

Also the concern for cleanliness is very important because all kinds of customers lie down on those beds.

Tanning Salons need to educate customers on recommended exposures, provide safety devices such as eye goggles for protection from radiation and only use proper body lotions.


Are Tanning Beds better than Tanning Booths?

Tanning Beds are placed horizontally where the person lies down; while Tanning Booths are placed vertically where the person stands up.

Technically, there is no difference between a tanning bed and a tanning booth. The work mechanism is the same.

The difference is the space consideration. If you are thinking of purchasing a tanning machine, then remember that a tanning bed takes up a lot of space, while a tanning booth does not.

The second consideration is: will you fall asleep in the tanning bed and accidentally over-expose yourself? Most people tend to over do it when they are on a tanning bed. The worse scenario is when they fall asleep inside.


Tanning Goggles

Tanning goggles are small plastic eye goggles that have dark glasses for wearing over the eyes to protect them during the tanning process.

The UV lights may damage your eyes if protective goggles are not worn.

The skin of the eyelid is thinner and more sensitive than the skin on the other parts of the body. Because of that, the Ultraviolet rays from the fluorescent lamps can penetrate the skin and damage the eyeballs, even when the eyes are closed.

Tanning goggles will prevent the harmful rays from damaging the skin and the eyes. These goggles are normally small and cover only the eyes. They are different from swimming goggles.

The tanning goggles should not block the flesh around the eyes which can result in a silly circle look if you wear bigger swimming goggles. Furthermore, swimming goggles do not have protective glass.

What happens when you don't wear tanning goggles, or if you wear inferior goggles?

The risk will be the burning of the cornea in the eyes. The cornea is the clear outer membrane that covers the pupil and the iris.

If the cornea is damaged or burnt, it can cause conjunctivitis resulting in blurred vision and a burning sensation in the eyes. Further damage will lead to permanent blindness.

If you feel the burning in the eyes, get them treated with eyedrops to reduce the inflammation.

Another eye problem may be the formation of cataracts. The cataracts are opaque film over the eyes leading to foggy vision. Cataracts cannot be treated except removal by surgery.


Tanning Lotions

If you need to use a tanning lotion, make sure that it is not a synthetic chemical based liquid but rather a natural one. Some good tanning lotions uses hempseed oil or a mixture of other botanical extracts such as aloe.

Commercial lotions normally contain a chemical called dihydroxyacetone (DHA) that may be harmful to the body when the chemicals seep in through the skin.


Artificial Tanning

You can get artificial tanning by Spray Tanning also called Mist Tanning.

Spray Tanning is a way of getting a tanned color skin without you being exposed to Sunlight or the UV lights of the Tanning Beds.

If you are keen to try Spray Tanning, get a professional to apply it for you, if not you will look awful - like an unfinished piece of artwork.

Before starting, you may want to know some facts on Spray Tanning.

What you will get is not a true tan but a fake tan. The solution is sprayed onto your skin and a chemical reaction on the skin cells creates a temporary darker color giving the impression of a suntan. This is similar to applying hair dye. You will see the darkening take place approximately 1 hour after applying.

The chemical that is used is usually dihydroxiacetone (see above), and the results normally last for a week or so. There may be other chemicals in the solution and these may cause skin allergy problems to those who have sensitive skin.

Similarly, those with breathing or respiratory problems should not inhale the mist that is sprayed onto your body, but wear a breathing mask while tanning.

As the skin begins to shed off the dead skin cells, the artificial tan will also gradually fade away.




Further Reading:

Doctors use tanning-beds to heal a 2 year old skin disease: Fox News

Solariums need to have proper compliance with legislations..Sydney, Australia.

Addiction to tanning-beds? - New Scientist.

Ladies, take charge against Cancer: The Independent.

For a better "Glow", Eat your Veggies.

Notorious Russian Prison to get Tanning-Beds...Google News.




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