Are tanning beds safer than lying out in the sun?
By Jennifer Viegas for Live Right Live Well
The short answer is "no." Tanning itself is a symptom of skin
damage. It results when ultraviolet (UV) light penetrates the skin and
triggers the production of melanin, the brown pigment that causes
tanning. It doesn't matter if the UV rays are coming from the sun or a
tanning bed. Both are equally damaging and "can cause wrinkles, aging
of the skin and skin cancer," says Steven Feldman, M.D., Ph.D.,
director of the Center for Dermatology Research at Wake Forest
University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.
If your goal is simply to look tan, "a spray-on tan would be safe,"
says Dr. Feldman. So-called "sunless tanners" (which come in creams,
gels and lotions, as well as sprays) usually contain dihydroxyacetone,
or DHA. When applied to the skin, DHA reacts with dead cells on the top
layer to temporarily darken the skin's appearance. The tan lasts until
the dead cells naturally slough off -- usually about five to seven
days. Keep in mind that "a spray-on tan doesn't protect against UV
damage," says Dr. Feldman. So when you go out to show off your new tan,
don't forget to wear sunscreen and a hat!
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