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After several months of COVID-19 lockdown, virtual “cave-like” existence, folks recently began to emerge from their shelters. Tanning salons were slowly opening back up, many in state-ordered phases. About the same time, summer began to kick in and folks started hitting the pools, beaches and lakes in pursuit of various sun-exposed recreation. My family took to the lake over the July Fourth weekend and were not fooled by the overcast Georgia day. We all sprayed ourselves with SPF products, but several family members still got sunburned. Multiply that by the significant number of people who were outside over the Fourth, and you’ve got a lot of sunburn going on. And repeated sunburn over a lifetime can lead to skin cancer.
The beautiful summer weather also reinvigorated the “look good/feel good” mentality for many as they sought out UV sessions at their favorite tanning salons. However, it’s also the time of year when the health mags and local media typically ramp up their efforts to “sun scare” the public and blister (pun intended) the tanning industry.
Case in point: this story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press and the question posed to Dr. Nita Shumaker: “Aren’t tanning beds safer than the sun?” timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2020/jun/29/ask-doctor/526474/
Her reply: “Tanning beds are not better for your skin. The risks do not vanish simply because you are inside. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot gain enough vitamin D in a tanning bed to offset outside sources. A tanning lamp primarily emits UV-A light, which does not increase vitamin D production. So a tanning bed provides no additional benefit and can ultimately cause more harm than help.”
Well, Dr. Nita, that wasn’t the question, was it? The question was, “aren’t tanning beds safer than the sun?” As those who work in our industry know, tanning salons are regulated by the FDA 21CFR1040.20 and operators are forbidden from making claims to the public regarding possible health benefits or the relative safety of indoor tanning bed sessions. However, for those millions of people who weigh the risks and benefits of UV exposure, indoor tanning provides moderate and controlled UV sessions determined by individual skin type and use of a timer that minimizes risk of overexposure and sunburn.
As for vitamin D and artificial sunlight, recent research sheds some different light. “Sunbeds with a UVB component similar to solar summer sunshine may provide an effective alternate vitamin D source during winter months,” according to a new Canadian study just published in the Journal Dermato-Endocrinology. But remember, our industry cannot promote these claims in any way.
Lastly, Dr. Nita states that indoor tanning “… can cause more harm than good.” Really? More harm than that caused by the uncontrolled extremes of outdoor sun exposure? Children at risk while spending time at playgrounds, ballfields, parks, pools and beaches? Oddly, the doctor does not address any of the overexposure risks to which our youth are exposed every day – just continued finger-pointing at salons.
By the way – I did an internet search on Dr. Nita Shumaker. She specializes in pediatrics in Hixon, TN.
A 26-year industry veteran, Joe has taught certified salon operator training for the last 15 years, as well as advocating indoor tanning in many capacities. Joe is a sought-after speaker and presenter at both national & regional trade events, also interacting with the FDA, state & local regulatory agencies. During his most recent tenure with the ITA, he served as director of membership.
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