Is indoor tanning a good source of vitamin D?

Katie needs enlightening…I recently saw a billboard advertising that one session of indoor tanning was equal to 100 glasses of milk. Is that really true? Should I ignore all the warnings I hear about indoor tanning and just do it? Could it be that indoor tanning is actually healthy?

The Left Brain burns bright:

I have to say that I find this whole effort by the indoor tanning industry to be disgusting. Encouraging people to expose themselves to UV radiation to get vitamin D is like telling people to smoke cigarettes to help them lose weight. Both can work, but both are awful ideas.

UV and Vitamin D

In answer to your first question, Yes, it is true that UV exposure does stimulate your body to naturally produce vitamin D in your skin. It’s the UVB light that does it however, not the UVA. UVB are the rays that also cause sunburning. In indoor tanning booths, the UVB rays are typically reduced to low level to prevent burning. The UVA (tan producing rays) are turned up.

Indoor Tanning Industry

The indoor tanning industry is taking this fact and using it to claim that exposure to UV is actually good for you. They even go as far to suggest that it’s a myth that UV exposure causes cancer.

They post some interesting findings in this report on the “truth about tanning” which can be summarized as follows.

1. People are deficient in Vitamin D and that’s causing health problems.

2. UV exposure is the best way to get your dose of Vitamin D.

3. Doctors warning against UV exposure are unscrupulous liars who are getting paid off by the sunscreen industry.

4. Tanning is safe & healthy as long as you don’t burn.

5. Indoor tanning is best because you can control whether you burn or not.

Unsupported Conclusions

Their conclusions about vitamin D deficiency are supported by recently published studies in peer reviewed science journals. Even the American Academy of Dermatology would agree. However, none of their conclusions after point 1 has any objective support at all.

For example, they say UV exposure is the best way to get Vitamin D. The opinion of dermatologists and researchers is that dietary supplementation is a better idea. Who should you believe, the doctors & scientists who study the subject or the tanning industry who is trying to convince you their product is safe?

Of course, I’m skeptical of experts, but I’m even more skeptical of sales people.

Are Doctors Liars?

The implication that dermatologists tell people to avoid UV exposure because they get kickbacks from the sunscreen industry is just ridiculous. Even if there were a few unscrupulous doctors are we really supposed to believe that the sunscreen industry is paying off everyone!? Isn’t it more likely that these people are doing their job by giving advice that they believe will best keep them healthy?

As long as you don’t burn

The indoor tanning industry prides itself on its campaign to “prevent burning”. They contend that if you don’t burn, you’re getting a healthy dose of UV exposure. Again, researchers dispute this. The fact is that there is a correlation between people who use tanning beds and increased risk of skin cancer. Whether you burn or not does not necessarily matter.

Darkside of UV exposure

It is true that no one has yet found a direct link between UV exposure and cancer. But according to doctors “the link between ultraviolet exposure from the sun or tanning beds and melanoma is indisputable.”

But in addition to the likely cancer risk, there is plenty of evidence that shows UV exposure results in faster aged, leathery-looking skin. Do you really want to risk tanning only to have to worry about wrinkles, age spots, and a leathery complexion? Better is to get your vitamin D from your diet and your tanned look from something containing DHA.

The Beauty Brains Bottom Line

While the question of the safety of indoor tanning is not cut and dried, it’s pretty clear that the people who are using tanning booths are not motivated to do so to get more vitamin D. According to the opinions of doctors, the safest option for ensuring you get the proper amount of Vitamin D is to get incidental sun exposure plus dietary supplementation. Baking in a booth for vitamins is crazier than a prion-loaded bovine.

What do you think of indoor tanning? Should people start doing it to make sure they get enough vitamin D? Leave a comment and let the rest of the Beauty Brains community know.