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Tanning Bed vs. Natural Sun Tanning

Despite over 3 million being diagnosed with skin cancer every year, with almost 70,000 of those being melanoma, tanning is still extremely popular. Whether out at the beach, in front of a pool, or at a tanning salon, more and more people are embracing the idea that sun kissed, tanned skin is the only way to go. This raises the question: Which on is better? What’s the difference between using a tanning bed and natural sun tanning?

1. Wave Lengths

There are two different types of sunrays, UVB and UVA. UVB rays are shorter and have always been considered the ones that cause the skin to brown, getting that longed for summer glow. Because these rays are shorter, they don’t go as deep into the skin as UVA rays. UVA rays have been studied more recently and penetrate much deeper into the skin. The difference between tanning beds and sun tanning is that tanning beds use UVA rays more and sun tanning usually exposes the skin more to UVB rays.

2. Skin Health

When comparing artificial and natural tanning, the question over which is healthier often comes up. While neither are recommended by medical professionals, outdoor tanning is considered slightly better for the skin. Tanning beds have over 10 times the amount of UVA light than the sun, which is extremely damaging to the skin.

3. Control

While tanning beds have concentrated amounts of UVA lights, they do have an advantage over the natural sun. Tanning salons are very controlled environments, so patrons are less likely to burn when tanning at a salon. On the other hand, it’s hard to control how much of the sun penetrates the skin when tanning outside, which can lead to sunburn and skin damage.

4. Skin Damage

Tanning beds and natural sun tanning can both cause skin damage, but they cause different types of damage. UVA rays, because they penetrate much deeper than UVB rays, effect collagen and tissue, releasing all different types of free radicals into the system. They are also responsible for causing an abundance of wrinkles and the orange, leather look that’s common with indoor tanners. This is the type of damage that can happen with indoor tanning. Outdoor tanning deals mostly with UVB rays, which mutates skin cells. This causes sunburn and freckles.

5. Vitamin D Exposure

Other than getting a gorgeous glow, being exposed to Vitamin D is one of the pros often stated for tanning, both indoors and outdoors. While getting a sufficient amount of Vitamin D is very important, most people get enough from the exposure they get through common, daily activities. Both tanning beds and natural sun tanning are great, but unnecessary sources, of Vitamin D. However, since the sun is a natural source, it beats tanning beds in this department.

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