What are your thoughts on tanning?
Posted March 01, 2017
RB from Monroeville asks: The sun is starting to reappear as we move into spring and I struggle with all the information I hear about tanning and tanning beds. What are your thoughts?
Thank you for your question. With the return of spring I am frequently asked about tanning, is it good or bad?
We all like the way a good tan looks and feels; however, how we get the tan can be harmful. My advice over the years to patients that ask about tanning has always been that a little sunlight is fine but it is the over exposure that can lead to sun damage, dark spots on the skin, premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. I share with my patients that I believe as I do with most things in life, “everything in moderation” and to “educate yourself.” Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers worldwide and we have the products available to protect ourselves.
Sunscreen is vital. A product with an SPF of 15-45 will cover most skin types. Products that contain higher SPF formulas may be irritating to the skin because of the higher chemical makeup. Remember, it’s years of exposure that lead to bad effects of the skin so using sunscreen ideally needs to start during childhood. Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes prior to going outside and should be reapplied every 2-3 hours and after swimming, sweating or any other physical activity. Any product that contains zinc oxide in its formula provides better protection as the zinc oxide acts as a barrier and not just a chemical for protection. I also encourage the use of hats and protective clothing with long term sun exposure.
Many people use tanning beds to get a “base tan” this time of year. This is a misconception. It is proven there is very little protection from harmful rays provided with a base tan. Sunscreens are much more effective at protecting the skin. Tanning beds can expose you to 15 X the concentration of UV rays that you would absorb by natural sunlight. I encourage patients to do their research and not to believe the claims that UV light from a tanning bed is safe. The risk of melanoma is 1 in 100 with the average population. If you use a tanning bed, even on an occasional basis, your risk can increase to 1 in 15. Studies show even with occasional use incidences of all skin cancer types increases. The risk of melanoma is much higher with the use of tanning beds versus natural sunlight.
It is almost time for spring and bathing suits so be careful and take the necessary precautions.