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Can Sunbeds Cause Skin Cancer? Are Sunbeds Safe? What You Need to Know About Sunbeds vs Spray tans

Updated on March 21, 2018
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Should you use a sunbed or try a spray tan instead? Find out what I what I discovered when I looked into the use of sunbeds and spray tans.

What You Need to Know About Sun Beds vs Spray Tans
What You Need to Know About Sun Beds vs Spray Tans

What You Need to Know About Sunbeds vs Spray Tans

Tanning treatments are more popular than ever before, and many people think self-tan treatments such as sunbeds and spray tans are safer than going out in the sun. What is the truth? Are sunbeds safe, and are you better off using a sunbed than sitting on the beach?

Spray Tans vs Airbrush Tanning Systems

Spray tans are also popular, and more of us than ever before are switching to spray tans. But, does that mean that they are safe? Spray tan saloons are popping up all over the place, and most of the time, it only takes you a few days to train to be a spray tan technician. With such as a sharp increase in popularity, does it mean that we are better off using spray tan treatments?

Are Sunbeds Harmless When You Only Go Once A Week?

Finding information about sunbeds vs spray tans on the Internet is relatively easy, but it made me wonder if anyone had ever compared the two. After a visit to a local spray tan saloon, I was surprised to discover how little the technician knew about the treatments, and the girls at the sunbed salon seemed to think sunbeds are harmless when you only go once a week. Is that true?

Can parabens cause skin cancer?
Can parabens cause skin cancer?

Do Sunbeds Really Work? Can Sunbeds Damage My Skin?

Yes, sunbeds really do work, and they will give you a tan. But, there is a major problem with sunbeds. Just like the sun, they give out dangerous ultraviolet rays (UV). The UV rays you receive in a sunbed session can damage your skin cells. The DNA in skin cells is affected by UV rays, and over time, the damage can lead to cancer.

Why Do We Become Tanned?

The UV rays in sunbeds stimulate melanin production which is produced by specific cells in the skin called Melanocytes. UV helps the cells to divide and create melanin which slowly rises to the surface. This is how you get your tan.

Spray tans vs. sun beds
Spray tans vs. sun beds

Are Sunbeds safe?

Many of is presume sunbeds are safe as long as we don't burn, we will not damage our skin. That is not true, but it was in fact what the girls at my local tanning salon told me. It is a staff sales pitch and many people still fall for it.

When you are on a sunbed, you can't always see the damage right away. Skin damage from sunbeds builds up gradually. If you notice you are going red, you have already damaged your skin, just like you would do if you sat in the sun for some time. Skin cells damaged by UV are more likely to mutate incorrectly, and this can lead to skin cancer or other skin conditions associated with sunbeds.

Are Sun beds really bad for us?
Are Sun beds really bad for us?

Are Sunbeds Really That Bad?

At this stage, you may be asking yourself if sunbeds really are that bad. Your friend may have been using one for years without any harmful effects, but it is a good thing to remember that some of us are less sensitive to UV rays than others.

If you are contemplating using a sunbed, it is important to know how sunbeds work. This is really the only way to explain why they can cause so much damage. Frequent use of sunbeds is more likely to cause problems. But it all depends on your skin. People with pale skin are more likely to suffer skin damage as they are more sensitive to UV rays.

How Do Sunbeds Work?

Sunbeds give out two types of UV rays – UVA and UVB - and both can lead to skin cancer. Studies have shown an increased risk of cancer from all types of sunbeds. The risk can be double that of spending same length of time in the summer sun. A rather shocking statistic suntan salon owners leave out when they first speak to a new client. I was told that sunbeds are actually safer than spending time in the sun.

How Many Times Per Week Should You Use a Sunbed?

The best and safest answer is to not use a sunbed at all. It is better to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Consider using safe and natural alternatives to sunbeds if you would like to have a tan.

Sun beds can cause skin damage
Sun beds can cause skin damage

Common Skin Conditions with Frequent Sunbed Use

Some skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema may be helped by sunbeds. However, it is best not to treat the conditions yourself. You may have read about the health benefits of sunbeds online, but if you do suffer from skin conditions which you may think could be helped by sunbed use, you should always ask a doctor. He or she can help, and if you do have severe psoriasis or eczema, it is better to use a sunbed with regular medical supervision.

Pityriasis Rosea

The skin condition Pityriasis Rosea has become more frequent since sunbeds became popular. The condition can last between 2 – 6 weeks, and common symptoms include red flaky skin which can be very itchy. The condition will clear up by itself, but should always be diagnosed by a doctor. It could mean you will need some kind of treatment to reduce the itchiness, and having time off work with Pityriasis Rosea, is normal.

Symptoms of Skin Aging

Skin aging symptoms such as wrinkles and fine lines are also common. Frequent use of sunbeds can lead to reduced collagen production, and the end result is dry skin with lines and wrinkles. Loss of skin elasticity is another frequent problem, and you may never regain your natural skin quality after having used sunbeds.

Protecting your skin in the sun is just as important as protecting your eyes.
Protecting your skin in the sun is just as important as protecting your eyes.

Can You Get a Tan with A Spray Tan?

Spray tans will give you "color" but not as a suntan which will last for weeks and weeks. Most spray tans last for about ten days to 2 weeks, and you would then have to revisit the salon for a "top up". However, if you have fair skin, a spray tan may offer you the perfect opportunity to enjoy that bronzed look during summer.

Can You Still Burn When You Have Had a Spray Tan?

Yes, you can still burn when you have had a spray tan even though the salon may be trying to tell you otherwise. Some brands say that you will not burn, but that is not true. Suntan protection only works if you use it on a daily basis. If you are planning a day on the beach, it is important to use your suntan lotion as normal and avoid the midday sun.

Some people spray tans can offer some protection. I think they actually do, but you would need a natural spray tan. Last year I used a natural brand and I did notice my skin stayed much better hydrated during the summer. Also, I did not have any problems with burning even when I was out on my paddleboard.


Suntan lotions contain parabens which can damage your skin
Suntan lotions contain parabens which can damage your skin

Are Spray Tans Safe?

Most spray tans are safe, however, it is best to use a natural brand. Some brands of spray tan contain parabens which are derivatives from the petrochemical industry. The problem with parabens is that they will stay on your skin, and in your skin, and cause damage. Looking at them, they look like little crystals and parabens can, in fact, intensify the sun's UV radiation. In the long term, they cause sunburn and are associated with skin damage, dry skin, and sunspots.

Suntan lotions are packed with parabens, and many doctors now think they can even cause skin cancer. So, is it the sun, or the suntan lotions with parabens, which cause skin cancer? It really makes you wonder.

Before you go ahead with your spray tan or fake tan, it is certainly worth doing as much research into the brand as possible. Make sure it is a natural brand which is not going to damage your skin.

How to prepare your skin for a spray tan
How to prepare your skin for a spray tan

How Do You Prepare Your Skin For a Spray Tan?

Your beautician will give you advice on how to prepare your skin for a spray tan. Some spray tan brands have their own routine which they would like you to follow for the best result.

Both hydrating and exfoliating your skin is important. Start about two weeks before your appointment. My beautician advised me to use a skin moisturizer containing ceramides and oats. I opted for Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion for Dry Skin which was recommended to me by my pharmacist. It is not expensive and does a fantastic job. Let me put it this way, I was really surprised and I am still using the lotion on a daily basis.

As I am going through the peri-menopause I have had a few problems with dry skin. This simple body lotion improved my overall skin quality. If you have a problem with saggy skin on the arms, it will help as well.

Remember to dry brush every time before you take a shower. Use long slow strokes upwards on your legs, and brush towards the heart on your arms. It can be hard to body brush your back and bum. I bought a body brush with a long handle, and it helped me to make the entire process a lot easier.

During your shower, you may want to use a skin scrub. I thought my beautician would recommend an expensive skin scrub, but she simply recommended Himalayan rock salt mixed with shredded ginger. Believe it or not, it worked just great and smelled wonderful in the shower. Ginger works by stimulating micro-circulation which will help to make the skin smoother and is essential when you have a problem with cellulite.


Questions you should ask before booking a spray tan
Questions you should ask before booking a spray tan

Questions to Ask When Considering a Spray Tan

  • Will the spray tan dehydrate my skin? If it dries out your skin, it will not last as long.
  • How long have you been working with the brand or product? No experience can mean the results may not be as good.
  • Can I take away some information? Try to take away some information to read and make a decision if this is the right spray tan for you in the comfort of your own home. Don't get pushed into anything.
  • How long does it last? It should last for at least ten days and should fade away naturally.
  • Does it dry instantly? Some spray tans seem to take ages to dry, and you may even find yourself sleeping on a towel!
  • Will any excess come off in the shower? Yes, an excess can come off in the shower, and it is good to know if this is likely to happen. After all, you don't want to panic and think you are losing your tan.
  • Will it give me a bronzed look or that dreaded orange tone? Your spray tan should always give you a bronzed look and look natural at the same time.
  • Can I top it up? Some brands don't recommend that you top them up too often. You should be able to top up your spray tan if you exfoliate and moisturize your skin well.
  • How soon will you see the results? Not all spray tans " develop" right away. It may take until the next day. It is not a problem, but it is good to know how long it will take.
  • Is it likely to dry in streaks? A spray tan which dries in streaks looks awful, and it indicates there is something wrong with the product.
  • Does it contain chemicals or dyes? It should not contain dyes or chemicals. It is your skin, and you have a right to know what you put on, so always make sure you can see, or at least, check out the ingredients online.

Natural spray tans
Natural spray tans

Natural Spray Tans

More and more cosmetic and skincare companies are beginning to develop natural spray tans. Check out what brands are available in your local area, and try to get a recommendation from someone who has tried the salon and brand.

Top Natural Spray Tans

Bea Bronz

Sinless Sun

Organing Tanning Solution

Vita Liberata

Sjolie

Monuskin from Susan Molyneux


I decided to use Monuskin from Susan Molyneux, but the other brands do not contain any parabens and could be worth trying. My tan seemed to last longer than 14 days and allowed me to build up a natural tan. The color was great and looked very natural. I also got lots of good advice from the brand appointed salon, and it was clear the staff knew the product very well.

Unlike other brands I have tried, I found that it did not dry out my skin at all, and it was not affected by swimming in the sea almost every day. It also allowed me to build up a suntan naturally. I did not feel that I had to go back for a top-up as I had managed to achieve a natural-looking tan seamlessly. However, I did go back at the end of September as I wanted to hang on to my tan for a bit longer. It did last and I have been topping my tan up on a regular basis without any skin problems at all.

Would I use it again? Yes, I would and I will be having another top-up to make sure my tan lasts during the summer months.

© 2018 Annie Messeri

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