Charleston Dermatology Blog

The Tanning Dilemma

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It’s a tale as old as time. Summer hits and everyone is looking to achieve that “healthy glow” of sun-kissed skin. Thousands of people storm the beach, soaking in as much Vitamin D sunshine as they can. The tanner they get the better, right?


There is no form of tanning that is considered safe. In fact, a tan is actually a sign of skin damage, and the tanner your skin gets, the more likely you will be to speed up the aging of your skin and increase your risk for skin cancer.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency of Research on Cancer, UV radiation — which is found in sunlight and the bulbs of a tanning bed — is a known carcinogen.

Additionally, tanning has been shown to cause visible signs of skin damage, wrinkles and age spots, as well as change an individual’s skin texture. Ever see someone who’s skin looked like leather? Chances are, excessive exposure to UV rays was the culprit.

And while tanning in any form is harmful to the health of your skin, tanning beds in particular are especially detrimental. A study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that using a tanning bed before the age of 35 would increase an individual’s risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent.

So what are you supposed to do? Avoid the outdoors all together?

While we do believe limiting your time in the sun is beneficial, we also recognize that it’s not the easiest solution. Which is why we recommend being smarter about sun safety by wearing broad spectrum, 30+ SPF sunscreen, covering up and seeking the shade as much as possible.

Also, if you’re looking to get a healthy dose of Vitamin D, consider incorporating Vitamin D-rich foods into your daily diet instead of trying to soak it in through sun exposure. Milk, yogurt, orange juice fortified with Vitamin D, salmon, mackerel and tuna are all Vitamin D-rich foods that can help you meet your quota. If you want a more in-depth look at a Vitamin D-rich diet, take a look at our previous blog.

If you’re still questioning what is right or wrong when it comes to tanning, schedule a consult with one of our board-certified dermatologists. They will be able to set you on the right path.

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