This time of year many people are excited to see the sun, and we agree wholeheartedly that it does something for a persons disposition. We would like to give some guidance though on the dangers of tanning.
Unfortunately, despite warnings, too many people continue to tan. Many still believe that having a tan makes them look healthy, but it is actually the opposite.
A tan indicates that your skin is trying to protect itself when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. This UV radiation is what contributes to premature aging such as wrinkles, cataracts in the eyes, skin cancers, and altered immune systems.
What kinds of UV radiation exist?
There is UVA, UVB, and UVC radiation. UVA is the longest wavelength, and UVC is the shortest wavelength. UVC is not a concern when it comes to tans and sunburns, as most of it gets absorbed by the ozone layer before getting to the earth.
What does UV radiation do exactly that it causes so much damage?
The UV radiation penetrates the skin, which can damage and cause mutations in the cells of the skin.
UVA penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB, but both are dangerous for the cells of your skin. Studies have shown that both types of rays are responsible for contributing to the aging in people’s skin and eyes, as well as resulting in skin cancers.
UVA rays are now known to be even more dangerous than originally thought, even though UVA has been known as the one associated with tans, and UVB with getting sunburns.
What do tanning beds use?
Tanning beds often emit high levels of UVA, even higher than the sun emits. Despite tanning salons telling their patrons that tanning this way is safer, it actually is not.
In particular, children and teens need you to teach them these dangers as they are at even more risk. Because their bodies are still growing, it puts their cells in even more danger of mutations.
But what about Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is produced in your body when you are exposed to the sun’s rays.
It is especially important in preventing osteoporosis (weak, brittle bones), but it is also important in improving your immune system functioning. Those living in northern climates are more at risk of Vitamin D deficiencies. You can get Vitamin D from some food sources, as well as supplements.
However, many people still believe, and many salons will try to convince you that tanning is a healthy way to get your Vitamin D.
Fortunately, a study done at St. John’s Institute of Dermatology, King’s College London, has shown that you can still get adequate levels of Vitamin D by slathering on sunscreen with an SPF 15. Some (but not all – that is why it is still recommended you use sunscreen) of the UVB rays pass through the sunscreen, thus allowing your body to produce Vitamin D.
In summary, tanned skin does not represent health. It is the body’s way of trying to protect itself from UV radiation. Whether you use the sun to tan or use tanning beds, you are putting your body at risk. If you want to ensure you get adequate Vitamin D levels, it is healthier to take supplements.