About Tanning

tanning bed

WHAT IS THE TANNING PROCESS?

UVB (from the sun or in a low pressure indoor tanning unit) stimulates the melanocytes in the upper skin layer (called the epidermis) which then produces melanin. The pale pink melanin granules formed in the melanocytes are stored around the core of the keratin cells. In this manner the pigment granula protects the sensitive DNA located inside the nuclei without impeding the other parts of the cell receiving ultraviolet light. UVA then darkens the melanin, thereby giving the skin a dark appearance. A tan gradually fades as the skin cells migrate to the surface.

IS PIGMENTATION INDUCES BY EXPOSURE TO INDOOR TANNING EQUIPMENT THE SAME AS A TAN OBTAINED FROM THE SUN?

Both the sun and low pressure indoor tanning equipment emit UVA and UVB, a combination of ultraviolet light which most efficiently produces pigmentation and darkening in the skin. The most prominent difference in exposure is the times in which the tanning process takes place and also the external factors existing in outside sunlight. Some examples include the time of year and day, altitude, cloud coverage, pollutants, proximity to the equator, reflective surface, etc. Indoor tanning is in a controlled environment while outdoor tanning is in an uncontrolled environment.

WHY DOES A TAN DISAPPEAR?

The “tan”, or pigmentation process, occurs in the epidermis, the top skin layer. The epidermis replaces all its skin cells every 28-30 days. Cells in the inner portion of the top skin layer divide themselves, migrate to the surface, gradually die and slough off. Skin cells contain melanin, and as a result of UV exposure, rise to the surface and flake off. Therefore, a tan can be maintained only by repeated exposure to UV light.

A 20 MINUTE SESSION IN A TANNING BED IS EQUIVALENT TO HOW MANY HOURS IN THE NATURAL SUN?

It is difficult to make a simple comparison between the sun and modern indoor tanning equipment. Just as various kinds of indoor tanning lamps and equipment differ in spectral output and energy emitted, the sun’s strength is dependant on several factors as well, such as the time of day or year, the latitude, cloud cover, pollution, and reflection. Consequently, there is no formula for relating indoor tanning exposure times to outdoor exposure times.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO DEVELOP A BASE TAN?

Moderate exposure to UVB helps develop a natural barrier in the skin to protect the body from excessive UV light. UVB stimulates the production of melanin which then surrounds the core of cells to protect the DNA. This melanin substance absorbs and/or scatters radiation. In addition, exposure to UVB thickens the epidermis (the top skin layer), thereby limiting the amount of UV light which could penetrate the lower skin layers. If this photo-protection (base tan) is not developed or a sunscreen is not used, sunburn can occur and the DNA of the skin cells may become damaged. Repeated sunburn can result in damaged cells which then reproduce themselves. This could be the initial development of skin cancer. Therefore, it’s wise to use a broadband sunscreen while exposed over a prolonged period of time or in sun intensive regions.

CAN THE UV RAYS EMITTED BY INDOOR TANNING LAMPS PASS THROUGH THE SKIN AND AFFECT INTERNAL ORGANS?

The UV rays emitted by indoor tanning lamps do not emit sufficient energy to penetrate past the skin layers. Thus, despite claims and rumors to the contrary, internal organs are not directly impacted by longer wave UV light.

WHY DO SOME DERMATOLOGISTS WARN PEOPLE AGAINST SUN EXPOSURE?

While some dermatologists may advocate total avoidance of all sun exposure, the media seems to quote only those who do. Many dermatologists and others from the medical community have acknowledged the need for moderate sun exposure, while advocating the use of sunscreens.

WHAT CAUSES WHITE SPOTS?

There are several reasons why white spots become noticeable on the body once the tanning process begins.

  • Patches of skin which do not tan could be the result of genetic determination. The melanocytes in that certain area may simply not be efficient at producing melanin.
  • White spots could also appear due to the presence of a fungus which lives on the skin’s surface. While the fungus is harmless, it does absorb UV light which would normally penetrate the skin. This fungus did not appear as a result of tanning; it merely becomes noticeable once tanning occurs. It can be remedied through the use of prescription drugs or some other topical lotions.
  • White patches of skin, which are often prominent on the shoulder blades and just above the buttocks, can be caused by the pressure from the body as it reclines on a hard surface. This pressure inhibits the flow of blood through that area of the skin. Since blood carries oxygen which is essential to the tanning process, this area does not tan. Periodic body shifting during tanning will make these white patches disappear.
  • Certain medications can react unfavorably with exposure to UV light. For example, birth control pills can cause blotches and uneven pigmentation of the skin.

DOES TANNING HELP TREAT DEPRESSION OR SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER (SAD)?

There exists a growing body of scientific evidence which indicates that some people actually require more light exposure in order to function properly. Exposure to bright light, such as that emitted by the mid-day summer sun, causes the brain to suppress the release of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin acts as a depressant in the body if generated during the daytime. This, when affected people are exposed to longer hours of bright light, they feel happier, euphoric and more able to enjoy life. Bright light sources emitting only visible light, are now frequently used to successfully treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Sub-syndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder (SSAD).

WHY SHOULD I TAN?

Sunlight is absolutely essential to all life on earth. There are various reasons, both biological and psychological, why exposure to light is desirable. In addition, many people believe they look better with a tan. Thus, having a tan may provide a psychological uplift for some.

CAN TEENS AND CHILDREN TAN INDOORS?

At this time, there appears to be no biological reason why teenagers and children could not tan indoors. However, it is important for all salon operators to ensure that customers make an informed choice regarding indoor tanning. It is questionable whether a minor can make such a decision. Many states, for example, have used the following guidelines…recommending that persons under 18 years old obtain the written consent of their parent or legal guardian and also advising that persons under 15 be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Such precautions may be necessary for liability considerations. In addition, those states which have enacted their own regulations for the indoor tanning industry often include provisions which include parental consent for minors.

MUST PROTECTIVE EYEWEAR BE WORN WHILE TANNING INDOORS?

Yes. The Food and Drug Administration (21 CFR 1040.20) requires that protective eyewear which meets its transmissions specifications be supplied to each indoor tanner. Some state regulations require the salon operator to refuse tanning services to those who will not wear eyewear. In addition, it is absolutely essential that protective eyewear be sanitized after every use in order to minimize the risk of spreading infection. Customers should be instructed to always wear protective eyewear in the manufacturer’s recommended manner.

ARE ANY LOTIONS OR CREAMS BENEFICIAL TO THE TANNING PROCESS?

Yes. For three reasons:

  • Hydration – It is necessary that skin be hydrated sufficiently to reach and maintain the desired tan. Dry, neglected skin reflects UV light, not allowing it to tan underneath. It also exfoliates faster, causing the tan to fade quickly.
  • Nutrition – The natural vitamins in many lotions or creams are fundamental to the skin’s appearance and to its ability to tan. Along with other hydrating properties, these vitamins replenish the necessary nutrition to skin, promoting cell regeneration and oxygenation for greatly improved tanning results.
  • Oxygenation – Oxygen fuels all skin cell functions, thereby accelerating the tanning process. A good lotion or cream containing vitamins and botanical oil formulas help achieve deep oxygenation to stimulate melanin production for the best tan possible