Like to try one of those tanning beds? Wondering how safe indoor tanning is?

We asked the Federal Trade Commission for some advice.

We know: 5 Facts about Indoor Tanning

How does tanning work?

Tanning occurs when you skin produces additional coloring to protect itself against burning from ultraviolet rays, usually from the sun. Too much exposure to these rays can hurt your eyes, make you wrinkle prematurely, give you skin rashes and increase your chances of developing skin cancer.

How does indoor tanning work?

Tanning indoors works much the same way, except the ultraviolet rays are artificially produced by a tanning device. The most popular device is a tanning bed, where you lie down on a Plexiglas surface as light is beamed from above and below you body.

How safe is indoor tanning?

Indoor tanning damages you skin in much the same way that outdoor sun tanning does. Older, indoor tanning devices emitted shortwave ultraviolet rays (UVB) that caused burning. Newer tanning devices emit mostly long-wave ultraviolet rays (UVA). These are less likely to cause burns, but still damage your skin and, perhaps, your immune system.

Why do people wear those protective goggles?

Too much exposure to ultraviolet rays can damage the eye’s retina, burn the cornea and change the structure of the eye’s lens. The intensity of light in a tanning device is greater than outdoors in the sun. The FDA requires tanning salons to direct all customers to wear protective goggles.

What else should I be aware of when tanning?

Watch out for:

  • Too much exposure. Under indoor UV lights, exposed skin remains cool to the touch, so you may not be aware of how much UV light you're being exposed to. In addition, the intensity of lights used in tanning devices is much greater - and potentially more damaging to the eyes - than the intensity of UV rays in natural sunlight.
  • Medications and medical conditions. The combination of ultraviolet rays and some medicines, birth control pills, cosmetics, and soaps may accelerate skin burns or produce painful adverse skin reactions, such as rashes. In addition, tanning devices may induce common light-sensitive skin ailments like cold sores, and be harmful to people with diabetes and lupus.

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