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Sun Safety: Save Your Skin

Sunlamp Products

Sunlamp products emit UV that is similar to, or more powerful than, that emitted by the sun. Therefore, exposure to sunlamp products can also lead to skin cancer. Some experts argue that artificial tanning is less dangerous because the intensity of light and the time spent tanning are controlled. There is limited evidence to support these claims. On the other hand, sunlamps may be more dangerous than the sun because they can be used at the same intensity every day of the year -- something that is unlikely for the sun because of winter weather and cloud cover. They can also be more dangerous because people can expose their entire bodies at each session, which would be difficult to do outdoors.

The FDA requires manufacturers of sunlamps to develop an exposure schedule and establish a maximum recommended exposure time based on the UV emission characteristics of their products.

UV and the intense visible light emitted from sunlamp products can also damage the eyes, so it is important to wear proper protective eyewear while tanning indoors.

Tips for Tanning Indoors

If you use indoor tanning equipment, follow these steps to reduce the dangers of UV exposure:

  • Wear the goggles provided. Make sure they fit snugly and are not cracked.
  • Start slowly and use short exposure times to build up a tan over time.
  • Don't use the maximum exposure time the first time you tan because you could get burned, and burns are thought to be related to melanoma.
  • Because sunburn takes at least six hours to develop, you may not realize your skin is burned until it's too late.
  • Follow manufacturer-recommended exposure times on the label for your skin type.
  • Stick to your time limit.
  • After a tan is developed, tan no more than once a week.

 

So-Called "Tanning Pills"

No tanning pills of any kind have been approved by the FDA.

However, there are companies that market products they call "tanning pills." Some of these pills contain a color additive known as canthaxanthin, which, when ingested, can turn the skin a range of colors from orange to brown. Canthaxanthin is only approved for use as a color additive in foods and oral medications, and only in small amounts.

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA)

Some tanning sprays contain DHA, a color additive that interacts with the dead surface cells in the outermost layer of the skin, to darken skin color. It is commonly used in "sunless tanning" lotions, creams, and spray-on products.

DHA is approved by the FDA for use in coloring the skin, but it is limited to external application. The industry has not provided safety data to the FDA to consider approving it for other uses, such as applying it to your lips or the area of your eyes, or inhaling it. Therefore, the risks, if any, are unknown. The FDA recommends that if you visit a spray tanning salon, take precautions to protect your eyes and lips and avoid inhaling the spray.

Some tanning products on the market do not contain sunscreen. The FDA requires these products to carry a warning statement.

WebMD Medical Reference