Due to the rise in melanoma cases, tanning – both outdoors and indoors – has garnered a bad reputation. Movies such as “There’s Something About Mary” openly mock overly tan people, portraying them with leathery skin and deep wrinkles. Additionally, a recent public service announcement featuring several prominent (and nearly nude) celebrities ends with the warning, “If you leave the house without sunscreen, you might as well be naked.” However, moderate use of tanning beds can actually have a beneficial impact on your health.
Tanning beds were originally used in Europe to help Europeans compensate for the loss of sunshine in the winter. Upon reaching American soil, however, tanning has largely been used for cosmetic reasons. Tan skin is often equated with overall health, and despite the warnings regarding skin cancer and premature skin aging, many men and women have made tanning a permanent part of their beauty and health routines. It’s not uncommon for gyms to offer free or inexpensive tanning to their guests, and there are tanning businesses everywhere.
Sunlight is responsible for supplying your body with Vitamin D, which in turn helps with strong bones and teeth and blood formation. When Vitamin D passes through your liver and kidneys, it is turned into calcitriol, which helps your body to fight disease and helps to regulate your body’s levels of calcium and phosphorous.Under normal circumstances, 95% of your body’s necessary Vitamin D comes from exposure to the sun, but with the use of sun screen – even as low as SPF 8 – your body is deprived of this necessary vitamin.
Other than sunlight, Vitamin D can be found in cold water fish such as salmon and trout, and in milk that has been fortified with Vitamin D. For vegetarians and vegans, this presents an obvious challenge, as well as those who are lactose intolerant or who simply don’t like to drink milk. Vitamin D deficiency leads to Rickets, which is marked by weakened and bent bones; and muscle weakness and pain in adults.
However, recent studies are beginning to suggest that moderate use of tanning beds not only counteracts a Vitamin D deficiency, but can be used to treat such diseases as hypertension; Osteoporosis; Type 1 and 2 Diabetes; breast, colon and prostate cancer; skin conditions such as Psoriasis, acne, eczema (and can help to camouflage scars and stretch marks); Fibromyalgia; rheumatoid arthritis (along with other forms of arthritis); and PMS. Tanning can also help with depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Unlike tanning in the sun, tanning indoors can be controlled. If you go outdoors without sunscreen, you are exposed to sunlight for the entire time that you’re out. However, you can choose to slather on the sunscreen while outdoors, and plan your tanning for specific lengths of time. It is estimated that you can get all of your necessary Vitamin D by spending between 10and 20 minutes in the sunlight every day without sunscreen. Due to the higher intensity of a tanning bed, eight to 10 minutes two or three times a week is all you need.
The key to using a tanning bed for this purpose is to avoid getting sunburn. If you have very fair skin, only use the bed minimally. If you have darker skin, then it may be necessary to stay in for a little longer, as darker skin doesn’t absorb Vitamin D as readily as lighter skin. Thanks to the FDA, beds are required to post recommended exposure levels, which are usually located on the side of the bed. Many beds actually have charts printed on them that show how to gradually and safely increase your tanning, in the event that you are tanning for cosmetic reasons.
Another way to avoid sunburn is to tan “dry.” Most tanning businesses offer various tanning lotions intended to boost your tan. However, these have the effect of intensifying your tan, and if you are only tanning for a short time in order to attain Vitamin D, such intensification methods aren’t really necessary. You would only need these if you were also going after a more cosmetic tan.
Tanning in a bed can actually help to prevent burning later, as darker skin is less prone to sunburn. Additionally, tanning makes muscle definition more obvious, which is why you see so many bodybuilders with dark tans. If one of your reasons for tanning is for the latter reason, however, it is important to note that a darker tan can be attained while still limiting yourself to shorter sessions; you can increase your time by just two or three minutes, and you will notice a huge difference in your results.
One final note: It is no longer necessary to tan in a confining capsule that allows little to no movement. While that style of tanning bed is still popular and prevalent, there are also tanning booths that allow you to stand and hold onto overhead handles to ensure even tanning. These sometimes cost a little more, but if you tend toward claustrophobia, or don’t like the thought that your tanning bed may not have been properly cleaned after the person who went in before you, then this is a good option.
If you are someone who has always balked at the idea of tanning, take the time to consider how often you are outdoors, and whether you suffer from any of the conditions detailed above. If you are not getting enough sunlight, or are concerned about going outdoors without sunscreen, then tanning may be the solution you are overlooking.Sponsored links: