Skip to main content

We know you might feel better when you’ve got a tan, but going brown is your skin’s way of telling you it’s getting damaged. We’ve myth-busted some of the most common reasons people give us for using tanning beds.

Lifting the lid on tanning bed myths!

Using a tanning bed is one of the quickest ways to damage your skin. It will make you wrinkled, leathery and look old quicker – and you put yourself at risk of skin cancer every time you use one.

When you use a tanning bed, your skin goes brown to protect itself from the damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. This is radiation – and is just as dangerous as being in the sun without protection. Tanning beds, sunlamps and tanning booths all give out dangerous UV rays.

1. Myth – You only get skin damage when you’re old

Truth – Using a tanning bed before you’re 35 increases your risk of skin cancer (melanoma) by 60%. Melanoma can be fatal and treating it often needs surgery to cut it out. You may need skin grafts from an area of healthy skin to replace the damaged area. This can result in a lot of scarring. Damage builds up gradually and every time you use a tanning bed you’re adding to it. You can’t always see it, but it’s there.

2. Myth – Using tanning beds gives a better tan

Truth – There’s a maximum amount of tan you can get, and after that it won’t make any difference to your skin colour. More tanning sessions will just be doing more damage. Your skin will suffer and you’ll get more wrinkles!

3. Myth – It’s safer to use tanning beds than to lie in the sun

Truth – Both the sun and tanning beds give out UVA and UVB radiation, which can damage your DNA and lead to skin cancer. Tanning beds can give out 10-15 times more UVA than the midday sun. Tanning beds definitely aren’t a safe alternative to sunbathing.

4. Myth – Tanning beds don’t burn, so don’t damage the skin

Truth – Just because your skin isn’t burnt, doesn’t mean it’s not permanently damaged. The radiation tanning beds give out penetrates deeply into the layers of the skin and damages your DNA, before you even notice any redness or burning. Damaged cells are at a greater risk of changing and dividing uncontrollably to form skin cancer. If you burn or go red, you’ve seriously damaged your skin.

5. Myth – A base tan protects your skin on holiday

Truth – Having a tan before you go on holiday will not keep you safe in the sun. You still need to wear suncream, cover up and avoid the hottest part of the day.

Are you already at risk?

If you’ve ever used a sunbed or been badly sunburnt then you could be at risk of skin cancer. Be safe and check your skin every month for changes. Spotting melanoma early could save your life, and your looks. Know what you need to keep an eye out for.

Melanoma could be a mole that has changed or looks unusual. Or a new one which has suddenly appeared. Watch out for;

  • Moles that have blurred or jagged edges.
  • Moles where the two halves don’t look the same or the colour is different.
  • Moles that are bigger than 6mm across or look different from the others around it.
  • Moles that change in any way.

See the signs and symptoms of skin cancer here. 

There are safe ways to tan, you just need to be careful and protect yourself.

  • Fake it. It’s cheap, easy and you can top up whenever you like. We know it smells a bit like biscuits, but who doesn’t like biscuits? Plus it won’t damage your skin.
  • If you are out in the sun, always use sun cream with a minimum SPF 15 which also contains good UVA protection (the more stars the better).
  • Put your sun cream on before you go out! We’ve all done it, gone out in the sun and then put on the cream. Try to always apply sun cream 30 minutes before going in the sun.
  • Re-apply, re-apply, re-apply! Every two hours in fact. Sun cream isn’t indestructible. It rubs and washes off as you move and sweat.

For more advice, tips and tricks on using sun cream correctly, click here.

If you or someone you love has been affected by cancer, our free Support Line is there for you. Just call 0808 808 1010