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Dangers of indoor tanning - and why it’s so addictive

Indoor tanning incorporates the use of devices that emit ultraviolet radiation to create a cosmetic tan. UV radiation is associated with a variety of adverse health conditions, including loss of skin elasticity, eye cancer, and infections that interfere with daily living activities. Individuals find it hard to stop tanning when they get addicted to it because it affects people’s attitude and appearance; making them feel better about themselves. Steady amounts of ultraviolet radiation may also result in depression and anxiety.


Tanning addiction is a physiological dependence on the use of UV tanning beds to darken the skin's complexion. However, using a tanning bed will not increase the level of Vitamin D in the body. To get vitamin D safely, it is recommended to eat a healthy diet or consider taking supplements. Tanning bed is associated with severe injuries such as burns, eye damage, and unconsciousness, which negatively influence both physical fitness and overall body health. Here are the risks of indoor tanning:

Risks of cancer

Indoor tanning is associated with ultraviolet radiation, which increases the risk of developing skin cancer due to UV exposure. In one tanning session, the risk of cancer increases by 75%. Tanning promotes skin malignancies such as squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma, which is the most dangerous skin cancer. Melanoma is strongly associated with low-to-high ultraviolet radiation. Indoor tanning is mainly associated with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) but not Basal cell carcinoma (BCC). BCC and SCC vary with the amount of UV exposure from tanning beds.

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Indoor tanning is also linked to lung cancer because of smoking, and the damage is incredibly harmful because it is accumulative. Every time you get into a tanning booth, the damage builds, creating DNA mutations, which in turn facilitate the risk of cancer.

Allergic reactions

An indoor tanning device emits ultraviolet radiation that penetrates the skin. They are UV-A rays and UV-B rays. UV-A rays get into the deeper layers of the skin and are associated with various skin reactions, such as skin rashes. UV-B rays penetrate the outer layers of the skin and are responsible for sunburns. These rays may cause skin damage and increase chances of developing skin cancer. Tanning bed causes the skin to dry, which may trigger your skin to rebel with scaly patches and itchiness. Skin reactions such as rashes from tanning beds can be recognized by:

  • Inflammation and itchiness

  • Raised bumps on your skin (red or white)


When symptoms of discolored pus from rash, or fever due to the rash last for 5 days, you should consider seeking medical attention. Do not scratch the rash as it may damage the top layer of the skin, causing infections. You can start with home remedies to treat a rash due to tanning by taking a warm bath, avoiding direct sunlight, and using topical cream or aloe vera. If home remedies fail to work, consult your healthcare provider for a stronger hydrocortisone or antihistamine cream.

Indoor tanning results in skin aging

Indoor tanning makes the skin age more quickly, accompanied by symptoms such as age spots (brown), loss of skin firmness and elasticity, and wrinkles. Light skin is more sensitive to the radiation because it has less melanin, a pigment that colors the skin. When exposed to UV rays, the energy might be converted into biochemical reactions which damage the DNA, lipids, pigments, and proteins. Proteins that facilitate the suppleness and firmness of the skin decrease when exposed to UV lights.

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The damaged collagens are the main cause of premature wrinkles. Most people who tan eventually develop a leathery skin. Premature skin aging may negatively affect body fitness and appearance.

Indoor tanning causes severe injuries

Indoor tanning involves a substantial number of injuries. Tanning is linked to about 79.5% of skin burns, 5.8% eye injuries, and 9.5% syncope from a public setting such as a tanning salon. Salons and tanning manufacturers should warn customers about the risks of severe injuries caused by tanning beds. The common injuries related to indoor tanning include:

  • Illness and infections from unclean beds or tanning

You should ask the attendant what procedures they follow to clean and how often they clean. Ensure that you have details on what products are used to avoid injuries related to skin sensitivity.

  • Burns injuries

You might fall asleep during a tanning session; therefore, it is recommended to set your own timer on your watch or phone. When the timer on the tanning bed malfunctions or is set for longer, it may expose you to heat-related skin injuries in a short amount of time. High-temperature bulbs may also cause injuries related to burns. Consider asking the salon workers to ensure that they are using bulbs that meet safety regulations.


Immune suppression

UV-B radiation may cause improper functioning of the body's immune system and the natural skin defenses, causing reactions to various medications and diminishing the effects of immunization. Both UV-A and UV-B rays damage the genetic material, which results in cell loss, impaired cellular function, and the transformation of healthy cells to carcinogenic agents. UV radiation compromises the body's defenses and weakens the immune system against aggressive cancer cells.

High risk of sunburn

Erythema (sunburn) is a common sign of UV exposure and skin damage. It is usually marked by peeling and redness, which is a form of short-term skin damage caused by indoor tanning. When the UV rays penetrate your skin, it damages the epidermis, and the immune system increases the flow of blood to the affected area. High blood flow is what gives a sunburn the redness, making your skin feel warm to the touch. The damaged cells release chemicals that cause the brain to experience a painful burning sensation.

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Sunburn is associated with pain and more heat than normal, and the skin looks flushed, which may affect the daily activity and general fitness of the body. Severe sunburn should be examined by your medical provider and should be treated as a medical emergency.

Eye damage


Photokeratitis is caused by excessive UVB/UVC exposure to the eyes. Indoor tanning may cause "snow blindness" since tanning devices such as broken vapor lamps and other tanning lamps produce intense UV lights. The symptoms associated with photokeratitis include:

  • swollen eyelid

  • Pain in the eye

  • A feeling like sand in the eye

  • Impaired, hazy, or decreased vision



Cataract is a common form of eye damage that may increase due to UV exposure. Cataracts involve clouding of the eye, which causes decreased vision and possibly blindness. Other types of eye damage include macular degeneration, cancer around the eye, and irregular tissue growth, which may block your sight or vision. Consider wearing protection gear, such as goggles with 100% UV protection, while tanning to avoid the risks of eye damage.

Addiction to indoor tanning is categorized as a psychiatric disorder, which is characterized by personal distress associated with smoking, eating disorders, and anxiety. It may also affect the behavioral consequences, including compulsive disorder, mood change, physical dependency, and pain, which affect overall body fitness. Avoiding indoor tanning will protect the skin from cancer and all risks related to skin damage. Once one stops using tanning, the skin undergoes some natural repair processes to restore its original good state.

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