Are tanning beds bad for you

By Jean Sanders
Info Guru,

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Should you listen to advertisers or the medical profession?
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The question is - are tanning beds bad for you?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) share responsibilities in the regulation of sunlamps and tanning devices. They help in answering "are tanning beds bad for you?" The FDA enforces regulations that deal with labels on the devices; the FTC investigates false, misleading, and deceptive advertising claims about the devices. 
When these agencies determine that device labels don't comply with the regulations or that advertisements are not truthful, they may take corrective action. The FDA also can remove products from the marketplace. So, beware when you see advertising such as ... "Tan indoors with absolutely no harmful side effects" "No burning, no drying, and no sun damage" "Unlike the sun, home tanning beds will not cause skin cancer or skin aging.

Ads that claim indoor tanning devices are a safe alternative to outdoor tanning may be false. However, if you do your homework and check out the manufacturer's claims you will be able to answer the question are tanning beds bad for you.

Just like tanning outside, tanning indoors damages your skin. That's because indoor tanning devices emit ultraviolet rays. Tanning occurs when the skin produces additional pigment (coloring) to protect itself against burn from ultraviolet rays. Overexposure to these rays can cause eye injury, premature wrinkling of the skin, and light-induced skin rashes, and can increase your chances of developing skin cancer. So, are tanning beds bad for you?

The most popular device used in tanning salons is a clamshell-like tanning bed. The customer lies down on a Plexiglas surface as lights from above and below reach the body. Many older tanning devices used light sources that emitted shortwave ultraviolet rays (UVB) that actually caused burning. Aware of the harmful effects of UVB radiation, salon owners began using tanning beds that emit mostly longwave (UVA) light sources. Some salons claim this is safe. While UVA rays are less likely to cause burning than UVB rays, they are suspected to have links to malignant melanoma and immune system damage.

Whether you tan indoors or out, studies show the combination of ultraviolet rays and some medicines, birth control pills, cosmetics, and soaps may accelerate skin burns or produce painful adverse skin reactions, such as rashes. In addition, tanning devices may induce common light-sensitive skin ailments like cold sores.

You, ultimately, have to decide the answer to the question "are tanning beds bad for you?" However, if you decide that they are not bad for you, it is important that you protect yourself.

1. Limit your exposure to avoid sunburn. If you tan with a device, ask whether the manufacturer or the salon staff recommend exposure limits for your skin type. Set a timer on the tanning device that automatically shuts off the lights or somehow signals that you've reached your exposure time. Remember that exposure time affects burning and that your age at the time of exposure is important relative to burning. Studies suggest that children and adolescents are harmed more by equivalent amounts of UVB rays than adults. The earlier you start tanning, the earlier skin injury may occur. 2. Use goggles to protect your eyes. Ask whether safety goggles are provided and if their use is mandatory. Make sure the goggles fit snugly. Check to see that the salon sterilizes the goggles after each use to prevent the spread of eye infections.

Other safe facts of tanning beds include that many tanning salons are unregulated, allowing customers (especially those whose skin is incapable of tanning) access to tanning beds without supervision or eye protection. The American Academy of Dermatology supports local and/or statewide indoor tanning legislation that bans minors from using tanning devices. In addition, this legislation usually requires that warning signs be prominently displayed in tanning salons and list the hazards of such exposure, among other possible regulatory provisions.

If you do decide to use a tanning bed, consider your medical history. If you are undergoing treatment for lupus or diabetes or are susceptible to cold sores, be aware that these conditions can be aggravated through exposure to ultraviolet radiation from tanning devices, sunlamps, or natural sunlight. In addition, your skin may be more sensitive to artificial light or sunlight if you use certain medications for example, antihistamines, tranquilizers or birth control pills. Your tanning salon may keep a file with information on your medical history, medications, and treatments. Make sure you update it as necessary. This should definitely be included on your list of safe facts of tanning beds.

Another important reminder: Sunscreen. While all sunscreens provide some level of protection against UVB rays, no product screens out all UVA rays. Some may advertise UVA protection, but there's no system yet for rating UVA protection. Even when you use a sunscreen with a high SPF number, there's no way to know how much UVA protection you're getting.

What is the difference between UVA and UVB (ultraviolet) light wavelengths and will a sunscreen protect me from both? Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays UVA rays and UVB rays. Since PABA and PABA esters only protect against UVB light, check for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that also screens UVA rays. Ingredients like benzophenones, oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and avobenzone (Parsol 1789), extend the coverage. Highlight this on your safe facts of tanning beds list!

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