I've touched on it a bit in earlier posts on this blog, there seems to be some serious misconceptions about tanning by the general public. I guess it is time to address some of these myths. I see article comments all the time that are repeated enough so people think it is true. Well, in my experience, I haven’t found any of them to be true so I am playing myth buster today.
“Tanning turns a person’s skin orange” Myth, at least for UV tanning. A UV tan from a sunbed tans your skin the same way the sun would. It is a natural reaction in the skin, so the color is a natural color based on a person’s skin type. The fairer the skin type, the lighter the tan. I don’t have much experience with spray tans, but the two times I have done that, the color has been natural as well. I have found the orange tone that people refer to, comes from self-tanning lotions that can be bought at a drug store. There are chemicals involved that turn the skin an un-natural tone for the most part. Unfortunately, people associate that color with sunbed use and that is not the case.
“Using a sunbed causes skin cancer” Now this is really a hot issue. Overexposure to UV (i.e. sunburn) has been linked to skin cancer. When sunbeds are used irresponsibly they most certainly can cause sunburn and therefore raise the risk of skin cancer. This is why going to a professional salon is so important. Salons limit how long and how often a person tans based on their skin type. The fairest skin type (skin type 1) is turned away from sunbed use by a salon. They know the age of the bulbs installed, the type of equipment they provide and they stick to safety measures in place to prevent sunburn. Salons also educate their customers on the use of SPF products and skin care to avoid sunburn outside of the salon. They promote healthy, moderate UV exposure. So sunbed use in a salon is actually the safest method of UV exposure.
“Tan people have leathery skin and look old” Tanned skin is thicker, yes, and over a long period of time, wrinkles do happen. But not much more than a non-tanner in my opinion, I really think this one has to do with genetics more than anything. I know some people who have tanned for years that look unbelievably young for their age. This one is more of a matter of opinion and perspective, but I see many comments from people speculating that if someone tans, they are going to look like a catcher’s mitt within a year.
“Tanning cooks your skin and organs” This one wasn't helped by the Seinfeld episode where Kramer falls asleep in a tanning bed and Newman imagines him as a roasted turkey. The fact of the matter is you can not cook your organs or your skin. You can burn your skin from overexposure, just like a sunburn from too much time outdoors. But to think it is like some sort of microwave oven for the body is completely false. I dare anyone to cook anything in a sunbed. It can’t be done.
One last myth I want to address is something I commonly hear from people when discussing sunburn prevention. “My burn turns into a tan” or “I have to burn first and then I can tan after that” These are not comments I see when reading articles, but I do hear it a lot. It is a myth. People seem to think that they naturally just burn the first few times they are in the sun in the beginning of summer, and then it just magically turns into a tan. The fact is that they are not being responsible with UV exposure. They go outside and stay outside too long the first few times causing overexposure and burn. The layers of skin a little deeper are tan because the outer layers protected them from the burn. Once that outer layer peels off it shows tan. But this isn't safe. Sunburn should always be avoided. A person needs to build up exposure time slowly to get a base tan. I have actually had people tell me, “I don’t wear sunscreen in the beginning of summer so I can get a burn, and then that turns into a tan” It amazes me that some people intentionally get a sunburn thinking that is the only way they will tan. The reality is that if these same people would spend less time in the sun, or put sunscreen on their skin after a short period of time and slowly build a base tan, they would not be damaging their skin with sunburns.
So these are just some of the common misconceptions I see regularly. I think it is time to start using common sense when reading articles. Most of them I see are written in a way that is not balanced, but skewed heavily towards the “tanning is evil” perspective. One day I hope to see more articles that tell another side of the story, or at least both sides of the story. Until that day, I am here to tell my story of how tanning can be beneficial and is a good alternative to the medical industry's message of UV avoidance.