TanningCan tanning make you healthy?

Today there are two totally opposite opinions among people about tanning:

1. Tanning is dangerous because it might give you skin-cancer; and
2. Tanning is healthy because it gives you Vitamin D

The fact is that both opinions above about tanning are right but the second is more right than the first.

Like with almost all good and healthy treats, having too much tanning can be negative. Consuming any vitamin, medicine, healthy food or food supplement, in small doses are good for your health, however taking too much can give you serious side-effects.

To determine the correct amount you can safely take of a food-supplement or medicine is difficult because it varies from person to person depending on many different individual circumstances. To regulate your tanning is easier; the most important factor is to be sure to stay well clear from burning your skin.

That is also one of the reasons why tanning is the preferred way to raise your level of Vitamin D. Tanning is also the only natural way for your body to absorb Vitamin D. If Vitamin D was meant to take by swallowing it, Vitamin D would have been present in a mother’s milk. Since all other nourishment needed for a newborn are present in a mother’s milk, except Vitamin D, it gives us a hint of how nature wants us to get it in another way, namely by tanning.

During the last five years, modern medical science has confirmed what our ancestors always knew – sunshine and tanning are necessary for human life. Modern science has also identified Vitamin D as one of the hormones responsible for the healing process that is trigged by sunlight. Exposing your naked skin to UVB rays (270 – 315/320 nanometers wavelength, with the Vitamin D creation peaking at 297 nm), is the most natural and safest way for your body to start its own production of Vitamin D. It is not necessary and likely not 100% safe, to take Vitamin D as food supplement or to drink huge amounts of fortified milk. Tanning is the best solution to get Vitamin D.

So now maybe you are convinced to get healthy by raising your Vitamin D level by tanning, you just have to find the all-important UVB-rays.

If it is summertime or perhaps if you live close to the equator, this will be easy. During the rest of the year, it is more difficult. The farther from the equator you are, the more problematic it is to find UVB in nature. The sun has to be at an angle of 50 degrees above the horizon for the short UVB rays to reach the earth and the sky must be clear and free from pollution.

The Vitamin D you managed to get by tanning in the right way during the summer will disappear at the same pace as your skin loses its tanned color. My own experience is that it takes about six weeks without tanning for my level of Vitamin D to go from very high to insufficient.

There is also a way to stay healthy during the “flu-season”, by visiting a tanning salon. The tanning lamp emitting UVB (together with UVA), is probably the most important health-improving invention during the last 50 years. It is an invention well worth a Nobel Prize.

Unfortunately and for reasons described in several other articles and posts on my blog, indoor tanning has become the main target for the “sun-scare” lobby. A few person’s obsession to get as dark as possible by abusing the means of indoor tanning, is motivating a fierce anti-tanning campaign. The fact is, however, that regular and moderate indoor tanning is probably the best way to stay healthy during the time when UVB cannot be found in nature.

A regular tanning regime is good for your health, but you have to help your skin to stay smooth and healthy in order for the tanning sessions to work. Using dedicated tanning lotions (without SPF) of good quality, preferably based on Aloe Vera, will keep your skin young and smooth while tanning in moderation.

Following the advice above will mean that tanning can make you healthy!

This post is also available in: German Russian

20 thoughts on “How Tanning Can Make You Healthy”

  1. I think you are downplaying the dangers of tanning. Although vitamin D is a benefit of tanning, the harmful rays do more damage than they do good. Of course we can never escape the sun’s rays completely (nor do we want to) minimizing exposure would keep us healthy longer. We should be getting enough Vitamin D from the daily sun, even during the winter. People who visit tanning salons are 74% more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never been to a tanning salon. It’s great to look at the brighter side of things like you are doing, but it’s always good to take extra precaution and learn more about your skin type and your risks. I think that during winter months, taking a supplement for Vitamin D (under supervision and in moderation) would be healthier than visiting a tanning salon.

  2. Thanks Pham, for a balanced comment.
    In principle I agree that if there is a possibility to get vitamin D from the real sun, this is the by far best alternative. Unfortunately, for many of us, this is only possible during a very short time of the year.
    I have personally experimented with both the supplement and the tanning bed alternative during the period when UVB from the natural sun is not available. (which, unfortunately, is more than half a year where I live).
    Since supplements in the amount necessary to avoid deficit (4,000 – 5,000 IU/day) gives me stomach pain (in the liver-area) and digestion problems, I definitely prefer tanning beds.
    The 74% higher risk you refer to comes from the press-release from a research that actually doesn’t show anything like that. No research has managed to establish any increased risk for melanoma after regular and moderate (i.e. non-burning) use of tanning beds. Looking into the details of most reports, you will often find a severe discrepancy between the conclusions that are communicated in the press-releases and the real content of the reports. I have several examples of this on my site http://www.tannersrights.com. Taking into account that the time it takes to create sufficient vitamin D in a tanning bed (with good amount of UVB), is less than half of what it takes for my skin to burn, I feel quite safe using this, almost natural, way for keeping my vitamin-D level high during winter.

  3. Since I am writing a paper about this for a class I am taking, I have done quite a bit of research on both sides of this argument (which led me to your page actually) but I did find some interesting facts here (http://www.skincancer.org/news/tanning/tanningreport). Although this site is obviously going to be biased, they serve as a pretty reliable resource. On the bottom of this page you will find an alarming statistic that by visiting a tanning salon simply 4 times a year, you can increase your risk for melanoma by 11%. Your research is based on Vitamin D production but there are a lot of other products/symptoms that result from tanning. I will agree that tanning is a great resource for Vitamin D but, referring back to my previous point, it does not override the increased risks for cancer and skin aging, among other things. Tanning is the act of your skin cells producing melanin to protect your cells from being harmed by UV light. A doctor I read about described it as your skin “screaming for help.” Vitamin D is only one aspect of tanning and to call tanning “healthy” based simply on that, is logically unrealistic because you are excluding other factors in the equation. I used to tan myself but after doing my own research and doing my best to form my own opinion on tanning without the media’s influence, I have come to the conclusion that tanning in a salon is just not worth it. Vitamin D is available in other sources besides supplements such as fish, egg yolk, and some dairy products.

    Lets explore Vitamin D a little more. According to the office of dietary supplements, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin D is about 600 IU for person’s ages 19-50. Since supplements are not something that you prefer (which is rightfully so, since the best sources for Vitamin D are natural sources), besides tanning, you can eat 3 ounces of canned tuna and get about 154 IU of Vitamin D, or one cup of milk (depending on what kind you drink) and get about 115-124 IU of Vitamin D, or even eat 3 ounces of cooked salmon and get about 447 IU of Vitamin D. It just really concerns me that you categorize tanning as healthy, for not only yourself, but the public. I am in no way trying to insult you, just merely urge you to research more. Saying that tanning is healthy is a very bold statement and because it is on the internet, it will reach and/or influence a very large audience.

  4. I apologize, I don’t think my RDA numbers for Vitamin D are correct but I believe you understand my point.

  5. Hi Pham,

    I appreciate your interest in tanning and your attempts to find out what is really right or wrong, true or false.

    However, in order to do so, you really need to dig a little bit deeper than to articles like the one you refer to.
    The Skin-Cancer foundation is sponsored by La Roche-Posay, a daughter-company to L’Oréal, focused on making sun-protection cosmetics.
    They are not objective. We can never expect a commercial company to fund any research that will not promote the sales of their products.
    I advice you to go one step further and look into the research-papers they are referring to.
    I have done so for many of the “alarming” reports and I always find the following three facts …
    The first fact is that there is no real statistical proof that sunshine or tanning beds are dangerous to health if not abused (i.e. if you do not burn your skin)
    The second fact is that in every report there is an astonishing discrepancy between the reported conclusions and the real result presented in the research-documents.
    The third fact is that every sun-scaring report I looked into was written by persons sponsored by companies who made billions in sale of sun-protecting cosmetics and skin-care medicines

    If you use examples and statistics based on abuse and not on normal and recommended use, almost everything in your life can be made to look dangerous with deliberately twisted statistics.

    The dermatologists that creates the sun-scare messages have several commercial reasons (in addition to being directly paid by companies like La Roche-Posay) to do so. You can find some of them in this article:
    http://www.tannersrights.com/why-indoor-tanning-has-become-a-target-for-the-sun-scare.html/
    Reading the article from the Skin Cancer Foundation that you refer to, you can there see that they propose tanning beds to be classified as medical equipment. And I can promise you that it is not because of any concern for public health. Following their logic, you should also have a prescription to go outside a sunny day (if not being covered by sun-screen cosmetics).

    What is more serious is that they know, the same thing that most doctors and medical scientists knew before the sun-scare – tanning is good for the skin. The dermatologists on cosmetic’s pay-roll, know that if every person would have regular (but moderate and absolutely non-burning) tanning sessions, the need for their expensive treatments and the skin-care products from their masters, would be drastically reduced.

    Regarding the risk that they refer to, what does it really mean in practice? I believe that this article might be helpful to answer that question … http://www.healthjournalism.org/blog/2010/05/tanning-beds-what-do-the-numbers-really-mean/. The follow up question is then – why do the sun-scare people use the statistics in the way they do? I think this shows their non-objective attitude and that it is another strong proof of their true purposes.

    Then to the question of how much vitamin-D we really need. The figure you refer to (600 IU/day) is by far not enough. In addition to the many scientific research reports about this (I mean those that are not affected by the sun-scare lobby), I have done my own tests. I find that in order for me to keep my level of vitamin D above the deficiency-limit (30 ng/ml), I need to take at least 4,000 IU daily. This is of course impossible to do through food only. And I have experimented with some (but not all) different supplements. Yes, supplements helped, but I noticed side-effects like severe stomach-pain (in the liver-area) and digestion problems. Vitamin D was not meant to be obtained orally. Nature didn’t construct us to do so. Furthermore, vitamin D production is only one of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of other positive reactions that happens when sunlight and UV-light meets your skin. I believe Dr. Holick describes this very well in his book “the Vitamin D solution”.

    I wish you good luck with your paper, and appreciate our dialogue.

  6. Mary McIntyre

    I like the comparison to too much tanning being like too many treats. Too much of anything good can become bad. It’s all about balance and moderation with the good things in life, such as tanning. The sun feels good and is the healthiest way to get the Vitamin D your body needs. Staying outside until you get burned is clearly not the right thing to do.

  7. Wow! Great attempt at justifying tanning. Reminds me of when people used to say it was “healthy” to smoke cigarettes. Thanks for speaking up Pham and giving a reality check. Sadly most people will believe the admin on this because they want to keep getting tan.

  8. Thanks, Angel, for your comment!
    As always, there are facts and there are figures. Figures can lie (and in the case of the anti-tanning propaganda, I believe I have proved that they do) but the facts remains facts.
    Your comparison to the old tobacco-commercials is actually quite adequate. You have, however, mixed up the sides. In the case of tanning (and with tanning I mean moderate, non-burning, regular sun- and UV-exposure) the money and the unhealthy alliance with dermatologists, are on the side of the manufacturers of sunscreen cosmetics.
    If you haven’t yet been to http://www.tannersrights.com and evaluated the information there, it might be an eye-opener for you.

  9. Hi Pham, and sorry for late reply.

    Let me just quote IARC (the International Agency for Research on Cancer) from their document about sun-exposure and melanoma that, for some reason, decided the classification of sunlight as carcinogenic …

    IARC MONOGRAPHS VOLUME 55- SUMMARY OF DATA REPORTED AND EVALUATION
    Malignant melanoma of the skin
    The body site distribution of melanoma shows lower rates per unit area on sites usually unexposed to the sun than on usually or regularly exposed sites.
    The associations with total exposure to the sun over a lifetime or in recent years, as assessed by questionnaire, are inconsistent.
    Chronic exposure, as assessed through occupational exposure, appeared to reduce melanoma risk in three of the large studies, particularly in men; this observation is consistent with the descriptive epidemiology of the condition, which shows lower risks in groups that work outdoors.

    I do believe it is a strong support for my view that regular and moderate (i.e. non-burning) tanning actually reduce the risk for melanoma.

  10. food supplements are really great because it can help you fight stress and other diseases like cancer. i am always taking daily multivitamins and antioxidants to maintain my health.

  11. Of course Admin you are in the right track, I agree with you, It’s quite useful for healthy living. But in this time most of the persons do not aware of tanning technique. seriously…

    Thanks.

  12. Hi, Thanks for sharing this article you give the nice informationg about tanning make you healthy.

  13. Wow! Great attempt at justifying tanning. Reminds me of when people used to say it was “healthy” to smoke cigarettes. Thanks for speaking up Pham and giving a reality check. Sadly most people will believe the admin on this because they want to keep getting tan.thank you

  14. Actually, also some doctors were once upon a time promoting smoking, paid to do so by BIG TOBACCO. The similarity lays in the way the BIG PHARMA today is paying doctors to demonize sun-exposure. (because they know that regular sun-exposure makes us more healthy and less in need of their antibiotics, vaccines, cardiovascular medicines and cancer treatments)

    You are probably too young, but when I was in school, no teacher ever told us: “get outside and have a cigarette”. But I heard many times … “go outside and get some sun”.

    Believe it or not, but the more we are protecting ourselves from sunlight, the more people die from skin-cancer, (as well as from all other cancers). The statistics is clear, but deliberately misinterpreted by a corrupt (or misled) society.

  15. Hello there…Well surely it is an awesome post and a post that is worth of reading. Moreover I agree that tanning is healthy for skin but as meanwhile it can cause cancer so the point is everything done in limit is good.

  16. As far as I know tanning is good but not for all. But I was some lack of knowledge about it. Now I clearly understand which is right and which is wrong. Thanks a lot for a great article.

  17. Amazing article on health tips. Thanks for sharing the best post to us. Expecting more articles as same

  18. He doesn’t know what he is talking about… vitamin d is not absorbed from the sun. The sun changes the vitamins already in your body into a form called vitamin d which can be digested. That is why people with lighter skin need less sun, it goes through your skin easier and alters the chemicals in your body. Thanks for being a snake oil salesmen!

  19. Paul, you somehow managed to not say anything of importance. You actually proved that you need the sun. Good job on reading a science book and sounding all pompous tho.

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