Tanning beds are the new nicotine

sun beds are the new nicotineWith skin cancer rates quadrupling in the last 40 years, young people should be discouraged from using tanning beds as a treatment for acne.  A recent article in Body Language, the Journal of Medical Aesthetics and Anti-Aging (May/June 2014 issue no. 63)  describes sun beds as the “new nicotine”.

The use of indoor tanning beds is becoming addictive to young people with many regularly using a “fake-bake” to boost their self-esteem and reduce the appearance of acne.  In a study of Texas teenagers 18% had used a tanning bed in the last six months and 76% sunbathed regularly outdoors.  This is worrying as the incidence of melanoma has increased in the past 10 years more rapidly than any other cancer and this has led to World Health Organisation designating UVA and UVB as carcinogens, equal to that of tobacco smoke.

One study has concluded that many young people are unaware of the dangers of sun beds and researchers found that 81% of young people thought that a tan looks better.

Skin has a vital role in the body, it protects the body from the external environment as well as restricting water loss.  The barrier function is located in the stratum corneum (SC). Recently it has been discovered by Dr Thornfeldt and other researchers that the stratum corneum is actually dynamic, continually regenerating in response to environmental assaults. However, damage by UV light and overuse of aggressive skin care products can be irreparable. A study by Pfahlberg and Kölmel found that having more than five sunburns doubled the risk of melanoma.

Increasing many young people are using tanning beds in order to reduce the appearance of acne. A safer alternative is the use of light therapy either from a dermatologist or at home using a device such as Lumie Clear.

Lumie Clear uses blue and red light in the visual range with no UV and therefore promotes good health without the negative impacts of a tanning bed.  Additionally, the red light soothes inflammation unlike many of the anti-acne treatments that can cause redness and burning sensations.

There are a number of ways of protecting your skin that can help reduce the risk of MM as well as minimise visible ageing.

Advice includes:

  • Treating your skin gently – hot water and excessive drying during cleansing process disrupts the skin barrier
  • Protect your skin from extreme conditions – exposure to UVA, UVB radiation damages the SC and reduces its function
  • Repeating applications of sunscreen every few hours  –  it is broken down by the sun and diluted by acids in the skin barrier
  • Care after chemical peels and microdermabrasion – these accelerate cell turnover but can leave the skin vulnerable to skin damage in the short term until the SC has replenished
  • Covering up with UPF-rated clothing – this can provide protection from the sun. A hat with a brim and UV blocking sunglasses are also beneficial
  • SPF rated foundation and mineral-based make-up can also provide sun protection and is useful in the winter when the strength of UV light is under estimated
  • Improve your diet to boost your intake of beneficial lipids and reduce the sugar content. For example eating six or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables and  increasing consumption of oily fish.

The answer seems to be on balance, eat a good balanced diet, drink lots of water and treat your skin with care.


1. Body Language, the Journal of Medical Aesthetics and Anti-Aging://www.bodylanguage.net/the-melanoma-epidemic/References

2. Lucci A1, Citro HW, Wilson L. Assessment of knowledge of melanoma risk factors, prevention, and detection principles in Texas teenagers. J Surg Res. 2001 May 15;97(2):179-83.

3. June K, Robinson, Kim J, Rosenbaum S, Ortiz S. “Indoor Tanning Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behavior Among Young Adults From 1988-2007.” Arch Dermatol. 2008;144(4):484-488.

4. Pfahlberg A, Kölmel KF, Gefeller O, Febim Study Group. Timing of excessive ultraviolet radiation and melanoma: epidemiology does not support the existence of a critical period of high susceptibility to solar ultraviolet radiation- induced melanoma. Br J Dermatol 2001 Mar;144(3):471-5

5. Wang SQ, Osterwalder U, Jung K. “Ex vivo evaluation of radical sun protection factor in popular sunscreens with antioxidants.” J Amer Acad Dermatol, 2011;65(3):525-5304

5. Thornfeldt C, Bourne K. “The New Ideal in Skin Health: Separating Fact from Fiction.” Allured Books, Carol Stream, Illinois; 2010, p149.