Tanning Beds vs. Laying Out – Which is more dangerous?

Jennifer Galvan

by Jennifer Galvan | July 12, 2011 @ 09:00AM

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The beach is calling your name and your desk is looking less and less appealing – summer is here! This also means that it’s time to make sure your golden tan is up to par. But what method of tanning is the best? Laying out or hitting up your local tanning salon? Either route, the sad fact is that your skin is going to suffer as it builds up that bronzed look.

Personally, I enjoy my tanning sessions and go a few times in the spring and summer seasons to maintain a decent color. Although I’m naturally on the tan side, these few “touch ups” are enough for me. However, I have seen others start out significantly lighter and gradually end up darker than I do. This is definitely not good for the skin! In reality, a tan means that the skin has been injured, which causes the skin to produce more melatonin to protect itself – that’s the golden brown color you see. The lighter you are, the harder your skin has to work to protect itself.

What most of us have failed to understand is that even though the tanning beds typically use more UVA rays than UVB rays, UVA wavelengths are longer and penetrate deeper into the skin’s layers. These are the culprits behind those pesky wrinkles and the development of skin cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), neither UV ray is safe; the American Cancer Society (ACS) has found that tanning beds are just as harmful when compared to being exposed to natural sunlight. The scary part is that we don’t always know what to look for as far as signs of skin cancer. So what’s a tan-aholic to do?

If you really need to get that bronzed look for summer, you might want to consider a sunless tanning option. There are several tanning salons that now offer spray tans, which can oftentimes provide a beautiful glow and no one would know that it isn’t from laying out – or in! When you really think about it, the only thing we tend to care about is how we look after tanning, which is something that we can easily now do with a sunless tanning spray or lotion.

“But I thought we needed the Vitamin D from sun rays?” True, our body needs some sunlight to get that natural Vitamin D, but that doesn’t mean that we need to lay out for hours in the sun and further increase the risk of cancer. A few minutes a day is plenty; the rest of the time it’s best to wear sunscreen to help protect your skin from overexposure.

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