Dr. Herzog to Parents: Say No to Tanning Beds and Yes to Safe Alternatives


Today we will hear from Dr. Jo the mom and Dr. Jo the dermatologist. As a mother, she understands that it is important to help girls achieve their goal of “a touch of color.” As a dermatologist, she insists that there is a right and a wrong way to go about it.

Dr. Jo Herzog

Although it is hard to remember the last time we have seen the sun, Spring is coming; I promise. With Spring comes the prom season.  All of the young ladies want to look beautiful in their sleeveless formals, and for some reason we have not yet been able to convince them that pale skin is pretty skin. They all “need a little color.”  Unfortunately, many of their mothers agree. I will admit that maybe pasty white isn’t always gorgeous in a lemon yellow gown, but I will put my foot down when it comes to how my daughter and my patients become “a pretty shade of brown.”  Please, moms; say NO to the tanning bed!

Tanning beds are dangerous. They emit both ultraviolet A (UVA) and B (UVB) rays. Ultraviolet A, the main element of the tanning beds rays, penetrates the skin deeply and is most responsible for the tan. Some ultraviolet B is mixed in, as it does help promote the tanning process. Ultraviolet A and B both can contribute to the formation of skin cancers. UVB is what causes a sunburn, but of course you get both UVA and UVB when out in sun.

Studies have shown that infrequent use of tanning beds can increase your chance of getting skin cancer 300%. Using a tanning bed more than ten times has been shown to increase this risk 800%. Melanoma is the cancer that worries us most when it comes to tanning beds, as we are seeing more of this in the younger population (I personally think that this involves mostly young women). Melanoma can be fatal if not caught and treated at an early stage. But melanoma is not all we have to worry about as far as tanning beds are concerned.
Photo damage from tanning beds will also contribute to wrinkles and premature aging. Tanning beds can also be a place where warts, molluscum, and other diseases that are transmitted by contact can be propagated. The light from tanning beds can cause melanoma in the eyes as well. Now what? I hate to present a problem without a solution, so let’s look at alternatives to tanning beds.

Spray tans are a safe and reasonable alternative. They will last long enough for the event. Make sure that you try a place where others have had good results and where the spray solution looks as natural as possible. I wouldn’t get a spray tan the day before an event without having a trial run beforehand.

Sunless tanning cream or self tanning moisturizers that tan the skin gradually are a great at home alternative. Jergens Natural Glow is one brand that has produced good results for many.  Do not leave these self tanners on any parts of the body that don’t normally tan, such as your palms; this is a dead giveaway. Before applying, try to make sure that your skin has been well moisturized for a few days and all scaly places are removed (exfoliated), as the tanner will adhere more to rough thick skin.

We parents have enough to worry about in protecting our kids and keeping them safe. We do not have to cave and buy them a tanning bed package for the prom. Make other arrangements, and offer them an alternative that won’t put their health or lives at risk.

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