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Sunbeds and their Dangers

sunbed dangers

What Sunbeds Can Do To Your Skin

Sunbeds have long been a popular choice for people seeking a tanned appearance year-round, but they come with significant health risks. These devices emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation, identical to the harmful rays produced by the sun. Contrary to popular belief, there is no safe level of UV exposure when it comes to tanning. The so-called “safe tan” is a myth; any tan indicates skin damage.

Health Risks of Sunbeds


The use of sunbeds significantly elevates the risk of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Separate research varies, but the indication given by Skincancer.org states that using a sunbed before the age of 35 can increase melanoma risk by 75%.

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers

Sunbeds also boost the likelihood of developing nonmelanoma skin cancers, such as squamous cell carcinoma (58% increase) and basal cell carcinoma (24% increase), according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

Premature Skin Ageing

Wrinkles and Sagging

Frequent use of sunbeds accelerates the ageing process, leading to premature wrinkles and sagging skin.

Leathery Skin

Prolonged UV exposure from sunbeds can cause the skin to become thick and leathery over time.

Other Health Risks

Burns and Skin Fragility

 Sunbeds can cause painful burns and make the skin more fragile. Improper use of UV goggles (or not using them at all) when using a sunbed poses a significant risk to eye health.


sunbed skin conditions

Skin Conditions from UV Exposure

Skin Cancer


 The most serious type of skin cancer, originating in the melanocytes, which are the cells that produce pigment. It can spread to other parts of the body and is often fatal if not detected early.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

The most common form of skin cancer. It originates in the basal cells of the epidermis and typically appears as a small, shiny bump or nodule that grows slowly.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

A type of skin cancer that originates in the squamous cells. It often shows as a red, scaly patch or sore that may bleed or become crusty.

Premature Skin Ageing


Fine lines and creases that form on the skin due to the breakdown of collagen and elastin from UV exposure.

Sagging Skin

Loss of skin firmness and elasticity, leading to drooping or hanging skin.

Leathery Skin

 The thickened, rough texture of the skin caused by prolonged UV exposure, often with a leathery appearance.

Loss of Skin Elasticity

 The skin’s reduced ability to return to its original shape often leads to sagging and wrinkles.

Photodermatoses (UV-induced Skin Disorders)

Polymorphous Light Eruption (PMLE)

 An itchy or burning rash caused by exposure to sunlight, often appearing as red spots or blisters.

Solar Urticaria

A rare condition where hives develop on sun-exposed skin within minutes of UV exposure.

Chronic Actinic Dermatitis

Persistent eczema-like reaction to UV light, leading to red, inflamed skin.

Actinic Prurigo

 A chronic itchy rash that worsens with UV exposure, often affecting the face, neck, and arms.

Pigmentation Disorders


Melasma shows as dark, discoloured patches on the skin, often on the face, that result from UV exposure and hormonal changes.

Lentigines (Age Spots)

 Flat, brown spots that develop on sun-exposed areas of the skin. They are commonly known as liver spots.


Small, brown spots on the skin that become more pronounced with sun exposure.

Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

 Dark spots that appear on the skin following inflammation or injury, often worsened by UV exposure.


Erythema (Redness)

 Reddening of the skin due to increased blood flow following UV exposure.


Formation of fluid-filled blisters on the skin as a result of severe sunburn.


 Shedding of the outer skin layer following sunburn.

Eye-Related Conditions

Ocular Melanoma

 A rare cancer that develops in the cells that produce pigment in the eye.


Clouding of the eye’s lens, leading to decreased vision, often exacerbated by UV exposure.


A growth of tissue on the white of the eye that can extend over the cornea, often caused by UV exposure.

Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratosis are described as precancerous lesions that appear as rough, scaly patches on sun-exposed areas of the skin.

Skin Fragility and Thinning

Atrophy (Thinning of the Skin)

The thinning of the skin layers making it more fragile and susceptible to damage.


Tissue Damage

 Structural damage to skin tissues caused by UV radiation, leading to premature ageing.


 Changes in skin colour, including dark spots and uneven pigmentation.

Solar Elastosis

 A condition in which UV light damages the skin’s connective tissue, leading to a yellow, thickened, and wrinkled appearance.

Actinic Elastosis

 Characterised by the destruction of the skin’s elastic tissue due to prolonged UV exposure, leading to a leathery appearance.

Photosensitivity Reactions

Drug-induced photosensitivity

Increased sensitivity to UV light caused by certain medications, leading to exaggerated sunburn or rashes.

Photoallergic Reactions

 Allergic reactions triggered by the interaction of UV light with certain chemicals on the skin.

Immune Suppression

Reduced Immune Response in the Skin

 Weakened ability of the skin to fend off infections and heal wounds.

Immune System Suppression

 UV radiation can weaken the skin’s immune response, making it more difficult to fend off infections and potentially allowing dormant viruses like herpes to reactivate.

Seborrheic Keratosis

Noncancerous skin growths that can appear waxy and are often associated with sun exposure.

Telangiectasia (Spider Veins)

Small, visible blood vessels that appear on the skin surface, often resulting from chronic sun exposure.

Sunbed Myths Debunked

Myth: Sunbeds are Safer than Sun Exposure
Fact: Sunbeds can emit UV radiation up to 15 times stronger than the midday tropical sun, making them far more dangerous than natural sun exposure.

Myth: Base Tan Prevents Sunburn
Fact: A base tan from sunbeds offers minimal protection against sunburn and is actually a sign of skin damage, not a preventative measure.

Myth: Sunbeds are a Good Source of Vitamin D
Fact: Sunbeds primarily emit UVA rays, which are ineffective for significant vitamin D production. Safe alternatives include obtaining vitamin D through a balanced diet, supplements, and brief, controlled sun exposure.

Myth: Closing your eyes is as good as wearing goggles.
Fact: It’s not. UV-blocking goggles are designed to block out all UV rays, whereas eyelids do not.

World Health Organisation Information

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection advises against the use of sunbeds for cosmetic purposes, citing potential health risks associated with UV exposure.

Sunbeds expose users to significantly higher levels of UV radiation compared to natural sunlight. The exposed skin area during sunbed tanning is at least twice as large as that of an average sunbather, contributing to a greater annual UV radiation exposure.

Although the exact causes of malignant melanoma are not fully understood, the development of this type of skin cancer seems to be associated with intermittent exposure to intense UV radiation. Sunbeds subject users to high levels of both UVA and UVB radiation intermittently, potentially creating an ideal environment for the development of malignant skin cancer.

self tanning

Safer Alternatives

Self-Tanning Products

Types: Self-tanning products include lotions, sprays, and foams, which can provide a tanned appearance without UV exposure.

Benefits: These products offer a safe way to achieve a tan, avoiding the harmful effects of UV radiation.

Application Tips: To achieve an even tan, exfoliate your skin before applying self-tanners and follow the product instructions carefully.

Vitamin D Sources

Diet and Supplements: Obtain vitamin D through a balanced diet rich in fatty fish, fortified foods, and vitamin D supplements.

Safe Sun Exposure: Engage in brief periods of natural sun exposure during non-peak hours (early morning or late afternoon) to help maintain healthy vitamin D levels without excessive UV exposure.

These methods provide necessary vitamin D while minimising health risks.

Prioritise Your Health Over Tanning

The extensive health risks associated with sunbeds, such as increased risks of skin cancer, premature ageing, and eye damage, significantly outweigh any cosmetic benefits. To safeguard your health and minimise the risk of developing UV-related conditions, it is advisable to avoid sunbeds entirely. Embrace and appreciate your natural skin tone, protect your skin by limiting excessive sun exposure, and prioritise your long-term health over temporary aesthetic preferences. If you have concerns about a skin lesion, err on the safe side and get a doctor to have a look at it, sooner rather than later.


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