Top 5 Myths About Tanning

With summer in full swing, many people are turning to tanning to achieve a deeper, darker complexion, but not everything you hear about tanning is accurate. In fact, there are many myths about tanning that offer misinformation regarding safety and best practices while getting sun exposure. Before we dive in, it’s important to understand a few key points about the sun and its rays.

Tanning beds
Beax [CC-BY-SA-2.5-pl], via Wikimedia Commons
The two types of ultraviolet rays that cause aging and burning are UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays. Ultraviolet radiation is often cited as a major contributor to cases of skin cancer. Since sunlight and tanning beds are two of the main sources of these rays, it’s more common for those who experience a lot of time in this radiation to develop skin cancer.

Five common Tanning Myths

Myth: Tanning beds in salons are safer than tanning outside under the sun.

Truth: Even controlled sources of ultraviolet radiation can be dangerous. In fact, those who tan in salons may have an even greater chance of developing skin cancer because their tanning habits do not depend on the weather or time of year. It has also been said that high-pressure sunlamps can produce more than 10 times the amount of UVA rays produced by the sun.

Myth: You’re only at risk for sun damage during days of intense sun.

Truth: This is a common misconception. The truth is that UV rays are extremely powerful, and can penetrate through clouds and fogs at an alarming rate of up to 80 percent. In fact, the worst sunburn I ever had, amounting in second degree burns, occurred on an overcast day in April.

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Myth: Getting a “base tan” will protect you from sun damage.

Essentially any darkening of the skin from UV light exposure is a sign of sun damage.

Myth: Using a high SPF will keep you protected all day.

Lots of people tanning at the beach
By M Hooper under CC BY 2.0

While a higher sun protection factor is better than a lower one, you have to reapply the product every two hours and after sweating or swimming for extended protection. To help fight against aging and burning, find a formula labeled as broad spectrum.

Myth: Only light skinned people are at risk for skin cancer.

Those with darker skin are still at risk for skin cancer. Although they may be less likely to develop skin cancer, there is an increased risk of fatality when someone of a darker skin tone develops skin cancer. It’s important for all people of all skin colors to stay protected and do regular skin checks on areas of the body including the nail beds, palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Bottom line: no one is immune to skin damage. It’s important to stay protected from ultraviolet radiation brought on by the sun and tanning beds. If you’re still enamored with the idea of a sun-kissed glow, try a self tanning lotion. With the right knowledge and sun safe habits (like staying out of the sun during the peak hours of 10am till 2pm and wearing sunscreen, sunglasses and protective clothing) you can live without the worry and regret many sun worshipers experience later in life.