An estimated 30 million North Americans turn to tanning salons as a controlled alternative to outdoor tanning. As we become increasingly aware of the benefits associated with regular exposure to sunlight and of the importance of managing 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.
The professional indoor tanning industry’s scientifically supported position is summed up in this declaration: Moderate tanning, for individuals who can develop a tan, is the smartest way to maximize the potential benefits of sun exposure while minimizing the potential risks associated with either too much or too little sunlight.
This position is founded on the following tenets:
Indoor tanning, if you can develop a tan, is an intelligent way to minimize the risk of sunburn while maximizing the enjoyment and benefit of having a tan. 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 the government regulates indoor tanning in the United States and Canada. 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, as regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada, 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.
The indoor tanning industry is at the forefront in educating people how to successfully avoid sunburn over the course of one’s life.
Consider, in recent years sunburn incidence in the general population has been steadily increasing while sunscreen usage has been declining. And according to the American Academy of Dermatology, the sub-group most likely to sunburn is older men. In contrast, sunscreen usage outdoors among indoor tanners is increasing.
We believe that teaching people strictly to avoid the sun may be making them more likely to sunburn when they do go outside for summer activities – and everyone does go outdoors at some point. Consider:
When you also consider that the majority of people who sunburn are male, according to the AAD, and that 65-70 percent of indoor tanning customers are female, clearly, it is non-tanners who are doing most of the burning outdoors. In the war against sunburn, tanning salons are part of the solution. Those who abstain from sun exposure completely are more likely to sunburn when they inevitably do go outdoors, even if they attempt to wear sunscreen.
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.
These graphs illustrate our point. The left graph shows the conventional thinking about sunlight: that totally eliminating sun exposure eliminates risks. That oversimplification is why the $30 billion sun-care industry tells us to wear sunscreen 365 days a year, no matter where we live. But the right graph is a more accurate, albeit more complicated, description of the risk function.
The one thing we do know for certain about sunlight is that zero exposure does NOT equal zero risk; in fact, the risks of zero exposure would be deadly. So the risk function must be curved. The vertex of that curve — where risk is minimized — is different for every person and cannot be randomly defined. What’s more, this graph does not even take into account the balance between benefits and risks. That has to be part of the equation if any campaign is going to be effective.
Human life is totally reliant on sun exposure, and the life-giving effects of ultraviolet light. The question for each of us — a question that nobody knows the exact answer to — is how much sun exposure is appropriate, and how much is too much. Basing the answer to that question on the belief that any exposure increases one’s risk of skin damage — a belief that is not categorically supported in the medical literature —fails to recognize the positive influence ultraviolet light and sunlight have on our lives.
New research on breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis 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.
That is changing. In 2006 the American Cancer Society and the Canadian Cancer Society joined health officials in Australia in finally recognizing that individuals need some ultraviolet light exposure in order to be healthy, and that sun avoidance may be contributing to vitamin D deficiency.
Why did this acknowledgement take so long? As we mentioned, the truth about sun exposure is abstract and complicated — the right level of exposure for one person may not be right for another person. Heredity, skin type, and many other factors make it a different equation for everyone. But one truth is universal: We all need sun exposure and UV light in order to survive.
It is a lot easier just to tell people to avoid sunshine than teach them how to enjoy it responsibly and appropriately, so many of our public health advisories have attempted to oversimplify the message and few took into account any potential for positive effects of sunlight. Instead of teaching you how to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks, many reports simply oversimplify the scenario and mislead you into believing that any exposure is bad for you.
You should also be aware of the fact that many industries benefit from scaring you about any sun exposure – twisting a proper message of sunburn prevention into an unwarranted message of total sun avoidance. This profit-based science has created what we believe is a total misuse of sunscreens.
Sunscreen should only be used to prevent sunburn. It is being marketed to block all UV exposure, which is unwarranted.
Make no mistake: Sunscreen is a good product with an intelligent usage: the prevention of sunburn. But 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 (many of which are women’s cosmetics) 365 days a year — no matter where they live. This is misuse of the product and may in fact cause more harm than good in the long run. Please consider:
Again, while sunscreen is an excellent product that has an intelligent usage in the fight against sunburn, overuse of the product may have serious consequences as well. Because most women wear foundation products daily, their make-up may be preventing them from producing vitamin D much of the year. And because women are more likely than men to develop osteoporosis, making up 18 million of the 25 million Americans afflicted with the disease, they would stand to benefit even more from an increase in vitamin D production.
Simply stated, sunscreen should be used as a tool to prevent sunburn whenever sunburn is a possibility. It should not be used on a daily basis in climates and seasons when sunburn is not possible.
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
That is why the professional indoor tanning industry teaches proper sunscreen usage more effectively than those who simply tell the public to wear the product 365 days a year: The tanning industry’s approach is more credible and practical.
New research has shown that vitamin D deficiency is epidemic in American adults today, suggesting that up to 90 percent of North Americans are vitamin D deficient. It is likely that over-usage of sunscreen in climates and seasons when sunburn is not a possibility has contributed to this epidemic. This is especially significant because:
Exposure to UVB from sunshine is the body’s natural way to produce vitamin D, accounting for 90 percent of vitamin D production. Dietary “supplements” are just that: Supplemental ways to produce vitamin D.
Research has shown that people who utilize indoor tanning equipment that emits UVB – which most tanning equipment does – also produce vitamin D. And studies have also shown that indoor tanning clients have higher vitamin D blood levels than non-tanners.
While the North American indoor tanning industry promotes itself as a cosmetic service, one undeniable side-effect of that cosmetic service is vitamin D production. Even though it is not necessary to develop a tan to produce vitamin D, this should be considered: Because research suggests that the risks associated with sun exposure are related to intermittent sunburns, it is credible to believe that the benefits of regular, moderate non-burning exposure outweigh the easily manageable risks associated with overexposure.
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. Here is why:
It is the professional indoor tanning industry’s position that sunburn prevention is a more effective message than sun avoidance, which ultimately encourages abuse. It is a responsible, honest approach to the issue.
There arguably is more misinformation about skin cancer than any other form of cancer, and most of it involves distorting the nature of skin cancer’s complex relationship with sun exposure. Consider:
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 term “moderate tanning” means something different for every different individual, and that is an important point. The bottom line is what we call “The Golden Rule of Smart Tanning” – 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.
In the past few years the dermatology industry’s lobbyists have argued that teenagers should be totally prohibited from tanning in salons despite having no solid evidence that tanning in a non-burning fashion results in any significant risk. In fact, such prohibitions would likely do more harm than good. Consider:
The tanning industry supports existing laws requiring parental consent for minors who wish to tan in salons, and would support constructive efforts to bolster enforcement of this standard.
While most of the dermatology profession has an inexplicably myopic view about tanning, some enlightened dermatologists have broken ranks with their peers in recent years, urging their profession to re-think its one-sided dogma about sun exposure. Two of the most recent: