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A True Story: Skin Damage Caused By Tanning Beds

A True Story: Skin Damage Caused By Tanning Beds

Posted by Goodman Dermatology in Dermatology Services Explained 11 Jul 2014
Young Girl in Tanning Bed | Roswell GA | Atlanta | Goodman Dermatology

Did you know that a thirty-minute tanning bed session is the equivalent of eight HOURS of sunlight?

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, medical researchers know that a thirty-minute tanning bed session is the equivalent of eight HOURS of sunlight. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) says that tanning beds are carcinogenic. In other words, tanning salons and tanning machines (e.g. high-speed tanning machines or traditional tanning beds or booths) cause cancer. They’re not just implicated in the development of cancer. Skin cancer and other types of cancer, such as ocular melanoma, result from these tanning machines.

This blog post reflects some of the questions I asked about my own badly damaged skin. I’m a sixty-year-old woman with naturally blonde hair and fair skin. Nature intended peaches and cream skin, not deep, dark, tropical (unhealthy) skin!

Is the price of tanning worth it?

Not on your life!

Many women in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond used home made tanning oils, made of baby oil and iodine, and foil reflectors to accelerate a suntan. I did these things but never really got much of a tan this way.

Although tanning machines didn’t become widely available until the 1980s, the idea of “baking” in the sun was quite popular for many years. Medical researchers say that sun worship of years past is responsible for rising rates of skin cancer today! (If you’re wondering how damaging the sun’s rays actually are, try leaving a piece of paper or a colorful piece of fabric in direct sunlight. Living skin tissue is delicate and, compared to the changes you’ll notice in sun-exposed paper or fabric, it’s seriously affected by UV rays.)

I’ve heard that UVA rays are safe in the tanning salon. Is this true?

No! Absolutely not! But that’s what an exclusive tanning center in Manhattan told me!

The American Cancer Society reports that skin cancer of all types is on the rise. Some of the effects of ultraviolet light don’t show up for decades but over time, both UVA and UVB light damages the skin. Tanning salons often make a point of explaining that UVA rays are “harmless” when compared to UVB rays…but that’s simply untrue. UVA rays actually go deeper into the skin’s foundation and structures. That’s why UVA rays can actually cause much more trouble than sunlight’s UVB spectrum.

Older women who subjected their skin to harmful ultraviolet radiation are sorry today because sun damage to the skin is preventable!

Goodman Dermatology knows the importance of taking proactive steps to prevent sun damage. It’s important for every patient to use high SPF sunscreen every day. And it’s essential to avoid tanning machines!

What if I used tanning machines in the past? What can the doctor do for me?

Naturally, I want to help my skin stay healthy for the rest of my life. Tanning salon and UV light exposure deeply damaged my skin. My dermatologist’s special “blue light” screen showed how badly my skin is damaged.

Thankfully, though, there are many therapies and treatment options available to help patients achieve healthy skin.

What are the steps the doctor will take in evaluating my treatment options?

Dr. Goodman first meets with the patient to take a complete medical history. He assesses the patient’s severity of photo aging and skin damage. Depending upon the patient’s present general health and medical condition, he may recommend specific therapies, medications, or procedures to support the skin, including:

  • Chemical peels can be used to remove the effects of ultraviolet light and sun exposure. The treatment allows the dermatologist to remove the skin’s top layer. New skin cells are exposed and the skin’s appearance is often improved.
  • Dermabrasion is also used to remove the skin’s top layers through an abrasive process. The skin may be red and inflamed after dermabrasion, and healing time is required. The treatment can effectively remove many of the signs of photo aging.
  • Intense Pulsed light (IPL) therapy can also improve the patient’s skin health. IPL differs from other laser therapies because it pulses many wavelengths versus a single wavelength of most machines. This therapy is nonablative, and the top skin layers aren’t removed with this form of therapy.
  • Laser Skin Resurfacing uses light to remove UV-damaged skin. The procedure helps the skin to heal itself from the inside out. Some forms of laser skin resurfacing are also nonablative therapies. Click here to read about laser skin resurfacing

Are spray-on tans okay for me to use now that I can’t sunbathe or use tanning beds?

Medical researchers don’t really know everything they’d like to know about self-tanning or spray-on tan products. Many use an active ingredient called dihydroxyacetone (DHA) — which isn’t the same thing as an omega-3 fatty acid also known as DHA. They believe this ingredient is probably safe to use but it does temporarily stain the skin, the body’s largest organ.

Let’s consider what’s really at stake by using spray-on or other fake tans. I thought about using them but realized, if I do, I’m not establishing a healthy example. Young women with healthy skin still pay money to the tanning salon. I don’t use these treatments. It’s best to focus on healthy, beautiful, naturally glowing skin. There’s nothing more attractive!


Photo aging isn’t just about looking older than my years. It’s a serious health risk factor! Patients with UV light damage need to care for their skin–medical treatments offered at Goodman Dermatology are skin-saving therapies. If you live in Johns Creek, Alpharetta, Dunwoody, Marietta, Canton, Norcross, Sandy Springs, or anywhere in greater metro Atlanta, call Dr. Marcus B. Goodman at (770) 754-0787 today.

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