Smart Tanning Tips

Why Indoor Tanning Is “Smart Tanning”

Indoor tanning, for individuals who can tan, is an intelligent way to minimize the risk of contracting sunburn while maximizing the enjoyment and benefit of having a tan. Again, we call this smart tanning because tanners are taught by trained tanning facility personnel how their skin type reacts to sunlight and how to avoid sunburn outdoors, as well as in a salon.

Tanning in a professional facility today minimizes risk because commercial tanning salons in the United States and in most Canadian provinces are regulated by the government. In the United States, exposure times for every tanning session are established by a schedule present on every piece of equipment that takes into account the tanner’s skin type and the intensity of the equipment to deliver a dosage of sunlight designed to minimize the risk of sunburn. The schedule, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, also takes into account how long an individual has been tanning, increasing exposure times gradually to minimize the possibility of burning.

That kind of control is impossible outdoors, where variables including seasonality, time of day, weather conditions, reflective surfaces and altitude all make outdoor tanning a random act and sunburn prevention more difficult.

How Do You Define Moderate Tanning?

The term “moderate tanning” means something different for every different individual, and that is an important point. The bottom line – what we call “The Golden Rule of Smart Tanning” – is simple: Don’t EVER sunburn. A fair-skinned, red-headed, green-eyed person may not have the ability to develop a tan without sunburning. This person should not attempt to tan then. On the other hand, most of us have the ability to develop a tan, and the majority of us tan very easily. Moderation, in our view, means avoiding sunburn at all costs. Going about that agenda will mean something different to every different person.

Smart Tanning Means Understanding Benefits and Risks

The professional indoor tanning industry promotes responsible indoor tanning and sunburn prevention as “smart.” We choose not to use the word “safe.”

Here is why:

The word “safe” implies that one can recklessly abuse something without any fear of causing harm. And reckless abandon certainly is not the behavior the professional indoor tanning industry is teaching. In fact, we are playing a key role in successfully preventing that kind of reckless abuse. By teaching a “smart” approach to sunburn prevention that recognizes that people do perceive different benefits from being in the sun, we are able to teach sunburn prevention in a practical way that respects both the potential benefits and the risks of sun exposure.

For example, previous generations believed that sunburn was an inconvenient but necessary precursor to developing a tan. Today we know better, and we are teaching a new generation of tanners how to avoid sunburn at all costs. Again, our position: Moderate tanning is the best way to maximize the potential benefits of sun exposure while minimizing the potential risks of either too much or too little exposure.

New research on breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and other deadly diseases – research that shows that regular sun exposure may play a key part in preventing the onset or retarding the growth of these deadly diseases – supports the position that moderate sun exposure, for those of us who can develop a tan, is the best way to maximize the potential benefits of sun exposure while minimizing the potential risks of either too much or too little exposure.

What Does “Misuse of Sunscreens” Mean?

Sunscreen is a good product with an intelligent usage: the prevention of sunburn. It is not necessary to wear this product daily most of the year in most climates to prevent sunburn. Yet many in the $30 billion sun-care industry encourage everyone to wear products with sunscreen 365 days a year – no matter where they live. This may in fact cause more harm than good in the long run. Consider:

By wearing sunscreen in northern climates most of the year you totally block your body’s ability to produce vitamin D. New research has shown that vitamin D deficiency is epidemic in American adults today, that we do not get vitamin D from our diets and that up to 90 percent of the vitamin D in our systems comes from sun exposure. Ultraviolet light exposure is the body’s natural way, and the only reliable way, to produce vitamin D. In fact, according to accepted anthropologic evolutionary theory, that is why fair-skinned cultures developed fair skin: To better produce vitamin D from sunlight.

While the tanning industry does support the use of sunscreens as a tool to prevent sunburn outdoors, we do not believe it is proper to teach people to wear this product during times of the year when one would not be able to sunburn outdoors. That is misbranding the product.

Tanning is a Natural Body Process

Tanning is your body’s natural protection against sunburn – it is what your body is designed to do. Many have referred to this process as “damage” to your skin, but calling a tan “damage” is a dangerous oversimplification.

Calling a tan damage to your skin is like calling exercise damage to your muscles. Consider, when one exercises you are actually tearing tiny muscle fibers in your body. On the surface, examined at the micro-level, that could be called “damage.” But that damage on the micro-level is your body’s natural way on the macro-level of building stronger muscle tissue. So to call exercise “damaging” to muscles would be terribly deceiving. The same can be said of sun exposure: Your body is designed to repair any damage to the skin caused by ultraviolet light exposure. Developing a tan is its natural way to protect against the dangers of sunburn and further exposure.

Saying that any ultraviolet light exposure causes skin damage is a dangerous oversimplification. It would be like saying that since water causes drowning, humans should avoid all water. Yes, water causes drowning, but our bodies also need water; we would die without it. Similarly, we need ultraviolet light exposure; we would die without it. It is the professional indoor tanning industry’s position that sunburn prevention is a more effective message than total abstinence, which ultimately encourages abuse. It is a responsible, honest approach to the issue.

What is the Truth About Skin Cancer?

You must realize that skin cancer has a 20- to 30-year latency period; the rates of skin cancer we are seeing today are a function of the ignorant misbehavior of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Recall: Society used to view sunburns as an inconvenient rite of spring – a precursor to developing a summer tan. Society felt that sunburns would “fade” into tans, and so tanners hit the beaches and blacktops with baby oil and reflectors. Severe burns were commonplace. Today we know how reckless that approach was, and the rates of skin cancer we are seeing today reflect that ignorance.

What’s more, you must realize that the photobiology research community has determined that most skin cancers are related to a strong pattern of intermittent exposure to ultraviolet light in those people who are genetically predisposed to skin cancer, and not simply to cumulative exposure. That again suggests that heredity and a pattern of repeated sunburning is what we need to prevent. And that kind of prevention is exactly what the indoor tanning industry is doing effectively.

The indoor tanning industry believes that our role in teaching sunburn prevention will help to reverse the increases that largely are a result of misbehavior that took place years ago before the professional tanning industry existed and before we were organized to teach sunburn prevention.

The Continuing Growth of Smart Indoor Tanning

Concern about skin care has helped fuel steady growth in the North American indoor tanning industry. In 2002, an estimated 30 million North Americans will turn to tanning salons as a controlled alternative to outdoor tanning. As we become increasingly aware of the risks that can be associated with sunburn and overexposure, more people are turning to indoor tanning facilities to help attain their tans in a controlled environment scientifically designed to minimize the risk of sunburn.