Indoor tanning damages your skin just as much as sunlight does. And, like sunlight, it increases your risk of skin cancer.
The sun, tanning beds, and sunlamps expose you to UV rays, which causes:
An increased risk for skin cancer
Red, itchy, dry skin
Sagging, wrinkled, leathery-looking skin
Burning of the skin
Damage to the eyes, such as cataracts
Damage to the immune system, which can make it harder for your body to fight disease, including skin cancer.
A tanning booth “pre-tan” does not protect against sunburn. If you want to look tan, safer choices are self-tanning sprays, creams, and gels.
What precautions can I take if I choose to use tanning beds?
If, despite the risks, you choose to use tanning beds or sun lamps, take the following precautions:
Talk to your healthcare provider about your personal risk factors for skin cancer.
Read the warning labels on the equipment and be sure to follow the directions. If you cannot find the label, tell the operator that you would like to see this information.
Protect your eyes with eyewear that blocks UV rays.
Ask the staff at the tanning salon how long you should tan to prevent getting burned. Start slowly with short exposure times of no more than 5 minutes. If you get the maximum exposure the first time, you will probably get burned. You may not know that you are burned until several hours after the session.
Do not tan more often than every other day. After you have a tan, do no more than 2 tanning sessions a week.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-03-04 Last reviewed: 2014-05-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Tanning Beds: References
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Skin Cancer. Is Indoor Tanning Safe? US Dept of Health and Human Services,Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 12/2013. Accessed 4/2014 from