The cosmetic world keeps evolving day by day, and people keep taking different kinds of steps to achieve their dream looks. It can be with natural ingredients or medical and surgical processes.
Sitting out for a while under the sun gives a tanned look by boosting the production of melanin on the skin. However, cold weather conditions and countries with insufficient sunlight often tilt towards using a bed that emits UV-A and UV-B waves. This bed is known as a sun bed or tanning bed.
Sun beds have a lot of health benefits aside from their cosmetic benefits. However, the process still has its downsides. This article shall discuss and weigh the benefits and dangers of using sunbeds for tanning.
What are sun beds?
Sunbeds, which came as a substitute for outdoor sunbathing, was invented by a European scientist, Friedrich Wolff, in 1970. This indoor tanning innovation became a highly professional industry and soon became the fastest-growing business in the US in the late 80s. Since then, indoor tanning has come to stay in the cosmetic world.
Sunbeds are equipment used to achieve a controlled level of tanning that can otherwise be obtained from the sun naturally. 10-20 minutes of sunlight exposure is needed to acquire vitamin D, which gives the body healthy blood levels. However, countries like the UK without sufficient sunlight are disadvantaged in getting their required vitamin D. Sun beds are to the rescue!
A sun bed uses fluorescent bulbs containing the natural components of sunlight(UV- and UV-B) to boost the production of melanin to give a somewhat tanned look. The amount of time spent on these tan beds for more tanned skin, as advised by a professional sunbed operator, usually depends on the type of sunbed being used, the patient’s skin type and the development point of tan.
How does a sun bed work?
Sunbeds, also known as tanning beds, are machines that mimic the sun’s UV rays to provide vitamin D for the body. A sun bed usually provides 95% UVA, with the remaining percentage being UVB.
A tanning bed is designed with about 10-15 bulbs of lamps fixed underneath, each having 100-200 watts of electric power.
When you go to a tanning booth, you will be told to lay on a sun bed. The bulbs/lamps would be switched on to penetrate the skin and provide a high amount of UVA and UVB radiation in the areas exposed to the lighting. The radiation causes melanin production in the melanocytes deep down in the cells. The effect on the outer body part is a brown-coloured tan(usually darker than the usual skin colour).
It should, however, be noted that using tanning beds to achieve sun tan cannot be used in the absence of a trained professional.
Benefits of sun beds
- Provision of vitamin D
The body needs Vitamin D entrenchment. Vitamin D is essential for bone density and diabetes management(regulating insulin levels) and plays a vital role in the nervous and immune systems. A vitamin D deficiency puts one at risk of bone diseases, heart diseases, autoimmune diseases and some types of cancer.
Exposure to UV rays through tanning beds helps the body synthesise this sunshine vitamin in the absence of natural sunlight, such as in winter.
- Mood booster
One of the psychological effects of winter is a term known as winter depression. Winter depression, otherwise known as ‘seasonal affective disorder or winter blues, is a type of depression that causes increased sleepiness, tiredness, irritability, lack of energy, excessive craving for carbohydrates that may warrant overeating, and as a result, cause excessive weight gain.
Sunlight has proven to be a mood booster through the release of endorphins. Unfortunately, natural sunlight isn’t available all year round, or even at all, in some places—Sun beds help provide improved mood and high energy all year round.
- Healthy sleep cycle
Many young and old adults have issues with maintaining a healthy sleeping cycle due to their life’s activities. Exposure to UVA and UVB rays can help regulate the serotonin and melatonin hormones that aid a healthy sleep routine.
Excellent indoor tanning would sure be a great deal for adults during winter or in cases where there’s no time to go relax for sunbathing at the beach.
- Pain Relief
A controlled level of indoor tanning has been confirmed to help relieve joint pains, muscular pains, arthritis and rheumatism. It generally eases stiffness and makes the muscles more flexible.
- Treatment of skin disorders
When UV lights penetrate the skin, it can help other medical processes provide quick relief from different skin conditions such as dermatitis, acne, vitiligo, psoriasis, and eczema.
Just as you will feel relaxed on the beach with your sunglasses and a glass of sparkling water, indoor tanning gives a sense of relaxation in a more private environment while getting the same UV rays value.
Dangers of sun beds
Too much of everything isn’t good. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause sunburns and, by implication, puts you at risk of some health-related problems. So, does the use of sunlamps and sun beds.
Some of the dangers attributed to using sun beds include;
Excessive radiation of UVA and UVB radiations can damage the DNA of skin cells, eventually leading to skin cancer. By implication, every visit to the tanning booth gradually damages the skin and eventually causes skin cancers such as melanoma.
According to the World Health Organization, the risk of sunbed skin cancer is 67% risk of squamous cell skin cancer and 29% risk of basal cell skin cancer, especially as a young adult.
- Premature Aging
Natural UV exposure requires using SPFs to control photo ageing, amongst other things harmful effects of UV rays on the skin. Sun beds have more UVA rays than natural sunlight, and these UVAs go deeper into the inner layers of the skin, which then damages the skin tissues and fibres.
The results of these are sun spots, liver spots and wrinkles that fasten ageing. It is no surprise that people who go for regular indoor tanning start to use anti-ageing products at a very young age.
- Eye injury
The eyelid skin is so thin and sensitive that it also gets affected during indoor tanning sessions, even though it’s not actively involved in the process. Closing the eyes or using protective goggles cannot entirely protect the eyelids from UV rays emissions.
The UV ray’s emission can lead to various eye injuries such as cataracts, conjunctivitis, pterygium, photokeratitis and ultimately, eye cancer known as uveal melanoma.
- Damage to the immune system
According to FDA, overexposure to UV radiation can affect and suppress the proper functioning of the body’s immune system. This affects how your body naturally reacts to infections and slows down your healing process by reducing the effects of vaccines and other treatments on the body.
Just like drugs and smoking, tanning relaxes the body, improves mood and, by implication, becomes addictive. Although this may seem as not so serious, experts have confirmed that 4% of the general population is addicted to tanning, either by natural sunlight or the use of sun bed.
It is no news that addiction is not a good thing because being addicted to sunbathing won’t allow you to heed any warning or signs of damage it could or may be causing to the body.
How to safely use sun beds
The side effects that accompany the use of sun beds don’t mean they can’t be used safely. However, there are some sets of people that the Health and Safety Executive regarded as not eligible to be on sun beds. They include;
- People with lots of moles
- People with skin-related conditions such as vitiligo
- People with fair and sensitive skin that burn easily
- People who have red hair and freckles
- People with badly sun-damaged skin
- People who have a skin cancer history
For those not in this category, you can safely use sun beds with some conditions. To do that, you should consult your dermatologist to discuss sun bed safety tips which include;
- Consider your skin type
Different skin types have different tolerance for UV rays. You should know the amount of time you can spend on sun beds and stick to it on each visit to tan safely.
- Don’t overuse
Sun beds can be addictive, so you should be careful not to over-tan, thereby exposing yourself to risks. No matter your skin type, a 10-minute session is enough for you. The body needs at least 48 hours to recover from a tanning session, so it is advisable to visit a tanning booth once and at most twice a week.
- Protect your eyes
The skin around the eyes is thin and more susceptible to UV rays. You should not only close your eyes during tanning but also wear eyewear mainly designed for tanning, and be sure to apply eye cream to moisturise immediately after tanning.
Sun beds have more excellent UVA rays than sunlight. These UVA rays go deeper into the skin and compromise the skin tissues and fibres. This means that the sun is not as bad as sun beds.
Tanning beds used in moderation are suitable, especially during winter when sunlight is needed for the body.
Although some people believe indoor tanning is better than going out under the sun to get sunlight, sun beds even pose more UVA rays danger than the sun.
Sun beds provide some benefits, such as pain relief, mood boosters, relaxing agents, and vitamin D production.
As much as sun beds have a range of benefits, there are also some side effects. You should consult your dermatologist to discuss the pros and cons of having indoor tanning.