This post contains unique advice on indoor tanning for vitamin D.
In a recent survey among tanning salon owners in the USA, more than 60% reported an increase in the number of tanners above 40 years old in their salons.
Joseph Levy, Executive Director of Smart Tan that made the survey, commented the result like this:
“It’s clear that people are figuring out that they need to take a balanced approach to sun care and not just shut the sun out, particularly people over 40. The fact that the tanning market continues to attract clients in the 40-plus demographic is evidence of that.”
For sure, an increased awareness about the benefits of vitamin D should also result in an increased interest to get vitamin D in the most efficient, natural and least harmful way.
During summer, the absolute best source for vitamin D is the natural sun. But even then, you need to know how to tan in the right way in order to get maximum vitamin D while minimizing any negative side-effects from overexposure to UV-light.
I have covered that in my article titled “Do You Know How To Tan“.
Indoor tanning for vitamin D – find out how to do it right.
The advice in this article is about how to get vitamin D from a tanning bed.
First, let's get rid of any doubts about if you can get vitamin D from tanning beds. Because you definitely can. I have proved it on myself and there are several reports available from larger studies showing that a tanning bed can be an excellent source of vitamin D.
I am saying “can be” because not all tanning beds are the same when it comes to their ability produce the special ultraviolet rays that triggers the vitamin D production in your skin.
The optimal “special ultraviolet rays” that are needed for producing vitamin D are of the wavelength 295-310 nm in the UVB range. The problem with that is that they come very close to the burning area (erythema) of UV-light.
Since indoor tanning is regulated by authorities in most countries to cater for so called cosmetic tanning, tanning beds in professional tanning salons are emitting mainly UVA (just like real sunshine, by the way).
UVA has longer waves than UVB and oxidize the pigment (melanin) you already have in your skin to a darker color. UVA-rays do, however, neither make vitamin D nor do they help your skin to create more melanin.
In addition to being commercially focused on cosmetic tanning, tanning-regulations, at least in the USA, prevents salon operators to give any advice about the potential health effects from indoor tanning.
As a “Vitamin D-tanner” who wants to seek out a tanning salon for your twice-weekly vitamin D dose, you might therefore have some difficulties to get enough information when you shop around for a place to get vitamin D.
Here are some concrete advice for how you can find out if a tanning salon has equipment that can fulfill your needs and also some practical tips for how to use indoor tanning for vitamin D:
If you are in the USA, don’t even bother to ask a tanning salon operator if they offer “healthy tanning for vitamin D”. You risk to be taken for an “under-cover agent” either from the media or from the authorities and the answer will probably not be very useful.
Instead, ask the concrete question “how much UVB, (in % of UVA), does your tanning bed with highest amount of UVB have?”
If the answer is above 5% UVB (in North-America) or 2.3% (in Europe), you are good. You might find that many salon-operators do not know how much UVB there is in their tanning beds, but that, I believe, is about to change in the future.
When you come to the salon you selected, you will find that the tanning beds with enough UVB, always are equipped with low-pressure lamps (those are the lamps that looks like long ordinary fluorescent lighting fixtures) for the body. They might also have extra high-pressure (round lamps with dark, square filters) UVA lamps for the face. The high-pressure face-tanners are there to give an extra cosmetic color boost to the face. They are not needed, and not even desirable, for vitamin D tanning and should therefore be switched off during your session.
If you want to further protect your face-skin during your tanning session for vitamin D, you can cover your face with a towel. If you tan in a vertical tanning bed, you can even use a broad-spectrum sun-protection lotion, for your face. See more about tanning cosmetics below.
You should of course also follow all other precautions for indoor tanning, like protecting your eyes with special eyeshields.
Now, for the most important advice about on how long sessions you should have for indoor tanning for vitamin D.
You will find that in a good professional tanning salon there are tanning-protocols that combine your skin-type with the output power for each tanning bed in the salon. Those protocols are however made solely for cosmetic tanning goals and are not good for vitamin D tanning. (Actually, as a vitamin D tanner, you should try to avoid to get a dark tan because a dark tan will increase your natural UV-protection and thus prolong the time needed to make vitamin D)
Here is how you still can use them in order to get a tanning session with zero-risk of burning while getting a full dose of vitamin D.
After having identified the best tanning bed for you according to the UVB selection described above, you ask for the normal session-time for cosmetic tanning in that bed according to your skin-type. Then you cut that time in half.
Following the advice above, you will get enough UVB for creating 10,000 to 15,000 IU vitamin D from one session and you will have absolutely ZERO risk of burning.
You will need at least 2 sessions per week in order to escape vitamin D deficiency.
I have described the process for healthy tanning much more in detail on this page: the secrets of how to use UV-light for healthy tanning. Click here and get the secrets. Having just re-read Michael Holicks book “The Vitamin D Solution“, I see that the advice above corresponds very well to the advice on indoor tanning for vitamin D which Dr. Holick gives in his book.
One additional advice about tanning lotions for indoor vitamin D tanning.
You can, and you actually should, use tanning lotions during and after a tanning session. The moisturizing and skin-caring effect in tanning lotions, help the UVB rays to penetrate deep enough to reach the vitamin D receptors in your skin-cells. They also reduce any visual aging-effects of UV-light (see my proof here). Do NOT use sun-protection lotions (except, maybe, for the face as described above).
There are so many tanning lotions to choose from and very often, the salon-staff will try to sell you a lotion full of extra bronzers to enhance the cosmetic coloring of your skin. Just like with the UVA lamps for face-tanning, as described above, for vitamin D tanning you do NOT need any lotions with color-enhancing bronzers.Look for a tanning lotion based on Aloe-Vera or coconut juice (Aloe-Vera or coconut juice should be the first or the second ingredient listed on the backside of the bottle). Then, there is normally a direct relationship between the price of the lotion and how many other good active skincare ingredients it contains. Don’t be greedy to your skin! You will wear it all your life! (Click here for more about ingredients in tanning lotions).
Don’t forget to share this advice with your friends, colleagues and relatives. It is never too late (or too early) for indoor tanning for vitamin D.
Do you know any tanning salon that tries to make it easy for Vitamin D-tanners? Tell us about it in the comments below!