I didn’t realize that people were still doing this. In high school, the tanning salon in my small town was constantly inundated with girls lining up to tan. The sunscreen/spray tan revolution was just beginning, but prom season was just around the corner.
Now, sunscreen is in moisturizers, makeup and lipsticks. It’s a common combative perk found in just about everything beauty related. Back then, it was a different story. We forked over our week’s worth of minimum wages to tan. We baked ourselves 3 times a week for 20 minutes at a time. Some went even more than that.
If only we knew then what is common knowledge now…
When you first hop into a tanning bed, your body is showered with a UVA light that is about 12 times the amount of damaging rays you get from the sun. After a few minutes, those rays penetrate your skin and break down collagen and elastin. (This is where aging happens. People spend thousands on plumping themselves with collagen and buying products that contain elastin.)
The light then penetrates into your deepest level of cells that make up your DNA. Your immune system kicks in and starts pumping out melanocytes thinking your body is under attack. Those little melanocytes are little brown shields that attempt to save your skin…like a scab. So, in other words, your tan is actually a giant scab.
After you are done cooking yourself, the damage continues through the next day. Your cells start dying and the new ones start replacing your damaged DNA. When you have wrecked your skin with a full body tanning, those replications can make mistakes. Those mistakes lead to cell mutations and if they take place in those melanocytes…you will develop melanoma. It is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and the leading cause of death from skin disease.
Common Tanning Bed Myths:
Tanning beds are safer than the sun.
LIE: As mentioned above, the UV rays used in tanning beds are 12 times stronger than the sun. It is easy to get a bed-burn. In fact, a study showed that 1 in 5 tanning bed sessions ends in a burn.
Tanning makes you look healthier and younger.
LIE: Those rays that damage your skin cells also damage the key DNA to keeping skin looking smooth and soft. As those skin elements break down, your skin thins and gives away to creasing, wrinkles and sagging.
Getting a base tan will protect you from sun damage and burns.
LIE: Doctors agree that there is no “safe” or “healthy” amount of tanning. Any tan results in damaged DNA. Period. Getting a “base” from a tanning bed is actually worse than getting a light sunburn.
Tanning Bed Truths:
Indoor tanning before the age of 35 increases your risk for melanoma by 75%.
Melanoma is the second most common cancer in adults under 30.
If melanoma spreads to your lymph nodes there is an 85% it will kill you.