Healthy Living

Are tanning beds safer than sunlight?

“Beauty is pain.”

We’ve all heard this mantra and know someone who goes to great lengths to achieve their beauty goals. Perhaps they go to a tanning bed to get that “healthy glow,” insisting that they’re safer than sunlight – right? After all, tanning beds were made for the sole purpose of getting an awesome tan!


“The concept of a ‘healthy glow’ is ironic because of the unhealthy effects that both forms of tanning have on the body,” said Dr. Jake E. Turrentine, dermatologist at Augusta University Dermatology. “Tanning beds expose your body to more concentrated ultraviolet (UV) rays than ambient sunlight, so you may injure your skin more quickly in a tanning bed.”

The ugly truth about tanning

UV radiation, which both the sun and tanning beds produce, is the most common cause of skin cancer. Aside from the obvious risk of skin cancer, other side effects include the following:

  • Risk of cataracts and eye cancers (leading to blindness)
  • Premature aging of the skin
  • Changes in skin texture (ex. leather-like)
  • Sun spots
  • Wrinkles

What that “healthy glow” really means

The darkening of your skin as a result of UV radiation serves as the following:

  • An indication of damage to the skin.
  • The body’s natural defense mechanism to the exposure of UV rays.

But this doesn’t mean that having a tan will protect you from future sun exposure; it’s your body telling you to stop!

It’s important to realize that “healthy glow” doesn’t translate to “healthy skin.” The true “healthy glow” is your natural coloring.

“The best way you can maintain healthy skin is by limiting your exposure to UV rays and remaining vigilant about any changes to your skin,” Turrentine said. “Watch out for things like new growths, changing moles and differences in skin texture and appearance.”

Also, next time you’re thinking about getting a “killer” tan, just ponder on how literal that can really be.

Concerned about your skin?

To make an appointment with a dermatologist, call 706-721-2273 (CARE) or 1-800-736-2273 (CARE).

About the author

Augusta University Health

Based in Augusta, Georgia, Augusta University Health is a world-class health care network, offering the most comprehensive primary, specialty and subspecialty care in the region. Augusta University Health provides skilled, compassionate care to its patients, conducts leading-edge clinical research and fosters the medical education and training of tomorrow’s health care practitioners. Augusta University Health is a not-for-profit corporation that manages the clinical operations associated with Augusta University.