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The Pros & Cons of Using a Tanning Bed

The Pros & Cons of Using a Tanning Bed

Feeling and being attractive are primally important traits to humans, as we have long used our looks to help attract a partner. Just as a bird might present colorful plumage or perform a song or dance to impress potential mates, we are programmed to compete for the sake of reproduction, even if having children is not on our conscious agenda. While there are many ways we vie for attention, how we look is arguably one of the most critical, as it requires no actual interaction, wit, or intellect to compete.

That being said, what qualifies as supremely attractive varies among human cultures; weight, height, eye color, eye shape, physical features, and even skin color are judged differently based on where we are in the world. While some cultures strive to be as light-skinned as possible, Western cultures have very obviously shifted towards preferring a sun-kissed, caramel tone. A small portion of the population is born with this coloring, but for the vast majority of us, skin pigmentation is either lighter or darker.

For many fair-skinned folks, the idea of achieving a bronzed god or goddess look seems possible via tanning. This allure has inspired many to hit the tanning bed for an extra UV boost or in order to maintain a year-round beach vibe, but at what cost? Below are some of the most prominent pros and cons of using a tanning bed.


It’s no secret that sunshine can boost our mood. Quite a large number of folks are seasonally depressed (or at least less happy and less energetic) during the colder winter months. As a result, portable lamps which mimic sunlight have risen in popularity as an effective mood-booster when sunshine is in short supply. Tanning beds also function in this way, with their bright lighting and penetrating UV rays lifting spirits and encouraging the body to create vitamin D.

What’s even better about this tanning bed side effect is that it can be taken advantage of all year round. While sunshine comes and goes independently of our wishes, it’s possible to jump into the tanning bed no matter what the local weather is. Along those same lines, tanning beds are accessible for longer hours than the sun typically shines; for those who work long days indoors, they provide evening access to those warm rays we crave.

As another perk, tanning beds can provide fuller and more even coverage than sunless tanning creams or public sunbathing as they can often be used nude, if you so choose. For ladies, especially, outdoor tanning can leave lots of uneven lines from bra and bikini straps, which may stand out when wearing a differently cut top. For men who don’t feel comfortable rocking a Speedo in public, a larger portion of the legs can be tanned with all the privacy you prefer.

A final pro of using a tanning bed has two complementary points. First, utilizing a tanning bed works much faster than the sun when it comes to tanning the skin. Of course, you’ll want to be sure you use a great tanning bed lotion so that you don’t burn, but the amount of time spent—even over the course of a number of days—will be shorter than it would be to accumulate the same color outside.

Secondly, the ten or twenty minutes spent in the bed provide a great time to relax, unwind, and find a sense of calm before, after, or during a busy day. The short window helps provide a guiltless experience of disconnecting from the world, devices, and any nagging items on your to-do list. Salons with tanning beds often offer a quiet environment with soft music, which is just right for a bit of R&R.


We definitely have to talk about the elephant in the room—and man is it a big one. Cancer. Although differing sources argue about the accuracy of this point for a variety of reasons, one bottom line has been proven: UV exposure leads to an increased risk of melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

It is true that baking in the sun will also expose us to UV rays, so some choose to justify tanning bed usage based on this ideology; however, as mentioned earlier, tanning beds are significantly stronger than your average outdoor sun exposure, and for some, hopping in the tanning bed is actually doubling up on the amount of UV exposure per day. In line with this argument, a 2007 study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that those who use tanning beds before they are 35 years old have increased their risk of melanoma by 75 percent!

Another scary and unwanted drawback of the tanning bed is that it has been proven to increase wrinkles and contribute towards skin taking on a leathery texture. This process is known as “photo aging,” and while it can happen with direct sunlight exposure as well, some are under the impression that tanning beds will not create the same outcome, which is false.


When it comes down to it, humans need to protect themselves in the face of UV exposure, whether that exposure is brief but intense under the light of a tanning bed or prolonged but natural from the sun’s rays. This is especially true for those with fair skin and/or a history of sunburns, which overlaps greatly with the population who are aiming to achieve that golden glow all year long.

For some, the increased risk of cancer is enough to make them steer clear of tanning beds. Those who have skin cancer of any kind running in their family history should certainly avoid this extra UV exposure and help protect themselves during outdoor activities, as well. All skin colors are equally beautiful and enchanting for different reasons! Aiming for a tan is often just not worth the risk of causing harm to our bodies and potentially having to endure surgeries, uncomfortable treatments, and possibly an early death.

Many states now have laws that prevent people below 18 years of age from utilizing tanning beds, but for all adults, this is a choice to make on an individual basis. Educate yourself before taking the plunge and really evaluate the risks and potential costs of hopping in the tanning bed. UV exposure is something that we can’t reverse, and fads concerning skin tone will come and go. Embracing and enhancing your natural look with a great haircut, flattering clothing, good color choices, and other fun modification options are far less harmful ways to feel great in your own skin.

Resources– NCBI, WebMD, Health and Med


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