During the winter months with temperatures dipping well below zero, many of us are looking for a warm relief or winter retreat. The first thought might be to travel south, but if this is not physically possible, you might also be considering a more short term solution such as tanning your skin at an indoor tanning salon. However, when it comes to looking after your skin, I would have to advice against this solution. Since roughly the 1980’s the trend for using indoor tanning beds and lamps has been on the rise. It might seem like a harmless way to warm your body and tan your skin, but in truth it is much more harmful for your skin and your health than meets the eye. Many of us view having a tan as healthy, but the truth is all tans whether it is from the ultraviolet rays of the sun or from the ultraviolet rays of a tanning bed, is a sign of damaged skin. Even after the tan goes away, the damage stays. When the skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun or a lamp it produces melanoma, which is the body’s natural defence that absorbs the ultraviolet rays. And although ultraviolet rays do provide some healthy Vitamin D to the body, they also damage the skin. The truth is all ultraviolet rays are damaging to the skin, but you are still far better off with natural sunlight than using an indoor tanning device.
Skin cancer risks to youth using indoor tanning devices
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 35 percent of adults have used tanning beds. The highest population for tanning bed use is college students who have a reported 59 percent usage. Even many teens have used an indoor tanning bed or lamp with about 17 percent reporting using them. The majority of tanning salon patrons are Caucasian girls and women between the ages of 16 and 29.
This is quite upsetting as research done by the International Agency for Research on Cancer shows that being exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning equipment before the age of 35 can increase one’s risk of Melanoma skin cancer. Studies also show that there is a 59 percent increase in the risk of melanoma cancer for those who have been exposed to U.V. radiation from indoor tanning devices and this risk increases with each use of these devices. Although melanoma skin cancer is the main cancer caused by tanning beds it can also increase the likelihood of other types of skin cancers such as squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma. The use of indoor tanning beds and equipment can cause other damage to the body besides skin cancers. Indoor tanning beds and lamps can cause premature aging to one’s skin, suppress the immune system and can also cause eye damage such as cataracts and ocular melanoma. Indoor tanning can also become an addictive habit.
The World Health Organization has also declared that indoor tanning beds and equipment are no longer just a probable carcinogen to the body but a known carcinogen that sits on top of a list of cancer causing products right up there with tobacco and aspestoes.
Recent laws to help protect the youth from the effects of indoor tanning equipment
It might be surprising to know that skin cancer has become the most common type of cancer and is on the rise in Canada. In fact one in three cancers diagnosed world wide happen to be skin cancer.
The Canadian Cancer Society has recommended that there be some proper regulations on Tanning Beds and Equipment usage. These laws are determined and enforced by the Federal, Provincial and Territorial governments. One of the main recommendations that the Canadian Cander Society has been particularly fighting for is that under age patrons should not be allowed to use indoor tanning devices. This is because children’s skin is more sensitive to U.V. radiation those under 18 are at greater risk for developing skin cancer when exposed to U.V. rays. This is why many Provinces in Canada are now passing laws that forbid children under 18 to use tanning beds and equipment.
As recently as last spring the Ontario Government passed a law not allowing under age individuals to use tanning equipment and beds in tanning salons. The law also prohibits tanning salons from directing their advertising towards teenagers. Many of the other provinces have also adopted this law including Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Quebec, while Manitoba requires a written parental consent for people under eighteen to use a tanning bed. Tanning for young people has also been banned in France, Austraila, and Germany. Presently, right now in Canada Alberta has the highest number of indoor tanning salons and users. Not only that but the majority of indoor tanning users are under 18 and as much as one in five minors tan indoors.
Popular reasons for wanting to use an indoor tanning bed
Even if you are over eighteen, you should reconsider using an indoor tanning device on your skin. As mentioned above, younger people are more sensitive to U.V. rays and although this is especially true with children under eighteen, it is also true for younger adults under thirty five. Many of the reasons people give for using an indoor tanning device is often based on wrong assumptions and false information. For example, one reason often given for using a tanning bed or indoor tanning equipment is the complaint that they are not getting enough Vitamin D in winter. This is normally partially achieved through the skin’s absorption of sunlight. However, if this is the main reason for using a tanning bed, than realize that this is completely unnecessary and unhealthy. It is much easier to get your Vitamin D through nutritional means or supplements. Fatty fish is the best source of nutritional Vitamin D with Cod Liver oil being an extremely high source of Vitamin D followed by many canned or fresh fish including Salmon, Tuna , Mackeral and Sardines. Cheese also has some vitamin D albeit a much lower amount than fish. Here in Canada many foods are now fortified with Vitamin D including all milk and many brands of orange juice and margarine. Plus, it is also a proven fact that one need not achieve tanned skin in order to aquire enough Vitamin D through ultraviolet rays.
Some people are drawn to indoor tanning because they are feeling the effects of S.A.D.(Seasonal Affective Disorder). To cure this they head to the indoor tanning salon to get some warmth and a substitute for sunlight. Still, the lighting offered at these indoor tanning salons is not the same as the light from the sun or the traditional/necessary light used to treat this disorder. The traditional light therapies offered to treat S.A.D. are much better and have various different light wavelengths or blue light with wavelengths of about 460 nm. Tanning beds have lighting with 400nm or below, so not strong enough to treat S.A.D.
Achieving a base tan before heading south is another common reason people give to wanting to use an indoor tanning bed or other indoor pieces of tanning equipment. The belief is that once one has a base tan the skin will be a little more protected from a burn before they head south under the tropical sun. Although there is an element of truth to this, it is still much safer and more effective to use a protective body lotion with an S.P.F of 30 to 50. Besides, the base tan one gets is only a 2-3 S.P.F factor and it is not as affective as an S.P.F lotion. It is also much safer to use the lotion. In many cases the heating lamps in tanning Salons have a much stronger light than the natural sunlight, and it is also harder to measure the light and U.V. that is being poured out onto an individual.
So, no matter your age, but especially if you are under thirty five, it is best to reconsider using a tanning bed to supplement your body with Vitamin D, or to cure your Seasonal Defective Disorder or even to help create a protective tan or barrier for your skin from the sun.
Tanning, especially in an indoor tanning bed or using a piece of indoor equipment is unnecessary and unhealthy. Not to mention the other health regulations and recommendations that have been suggested by the government and outlined by the Dermatology Association of America. Although one can view these recommendations on line, very few of the suggestions are enforced and non of them are yet made to be law other than the fact that it is now becoming a regular law not to allow minors to use the tanning equipment. Other recommendations include: that the Surgeon General should place a warning sign on all tanning beds warning individuals that indoor tanning equipment is a known carcinogen and that it causes skin cancers. Labels should affectively and clearly state this on all tanning devices. Also, all tanning devices should be inspected regularly and reports should be kept from each inspection. All tanning device operators should receive comprehensive training on operating the tanning devices. There should be protective eye wear provided for all patrons. Tanning device operators should also limit the time for use on there devices. Consideration should also be taken into account on the type of skin an individual has(burns easily, burns sometimes/tans slowly, easily tans/rarely burns, etc) The tanning companies or facilities should not falsely advertise healthy affects of using a tanning bed or suggest that it is safe or that it has “non harmful rays”. The tanning salon should also be kept very sanitary after each customers use.
Healthier recommendations to relieve the skin and body during winter weather
If you are looking for a little relief from the cold winter, there are a number of spa therapies that could be relaxing and healing for the skin and body, while warming you up. Two that I recommend is a hot stone massage as well as taking a sauna. Both are relaxing and saunas will cleanse your skin while they warm the body. You can also look for massage oil blends or skin care products that contain warming essential oils such as: black pepper, ginger and myrrh.