Skin Deep

Study: Tanning beds are addictive

There’s absolutely no upside to basking in the sun. Not only does it make you look years older than you really are, you’re putting yourself at increased risk for skin cancer. Indoor tanning (i.e. tanning beds) are even worse, since the bulbs in tanning beds emit mostly UVA light, while natural sunlight is a combination of UVA and UVB rays. UVA light penetrates deeper than UVB light and causes more of the DNA damage that contributes to skin cancer. You do not turn red from UVA rays, so you do not realize the damage that you are causing.

There’s always been talk about tanning addiction, especially in dermatological circles, and this theory has been substantiated by research. One particular study analyzed a variety of substance abuse models to see whether tanning met those criteria. The study found that in some individuals, tanning is equivalent to substance-related disorders. Trial studies also have recognized withdrawal symptoms in frequent tanners.

In short, there’s no doubt that tanning is a problematic behavior, not only for its health risk but for potential dependency. Though additional studies need to be conducted to see whether brain behavior in frequent tanners mimics that of those who suffer from substance abuse, this is proof enough for me.

I can’t emphasize enough that using tanning beds is asking for trouble. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and the World Health Organization, indoor tanning raises the risk of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) by 59 percent, and this risk increases with each use.

I understand the allure of beautifully bronzed skin, but it’s best to get your tan from a bottle. Formulations have come a long way, and you can get a natural looking golden glow with self-tanner—and not look orange. A professional spray tan ensures even coverage from top to toe, and there are even products like Bronze Buffer that fix self-tanning mistakes so you don’t have to let them fade away on their own. Just ask yourself, is a tan really worth dying for?

Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist, New York Times best-selling author and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.