Many people ask the question, “is tanning bad for me”? Yet even when they hear the simplified answer, ‘yes’, it doesn’t seem to stop the average person.

Why is this so?

The answer is in fact a scientific one, and consists of several aspects, both good and bad. There are many benefits an individual gets from the sun that are vital for a healthy body. However tanning for prolonged periods has many negatives that shouldn’t be ignored.

In Australia, participating in activities outdoors, inevitably in the sunshine, is commonplace. It’s assumed the enjoyment comes from the particular activity, eg. beach walking or sport, but what is not widely known, is that the sun, more specifically UV rays, actually play a part in this feeling.

A study was conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, to determine why individuals are ‘lured’ to tanning beds. They discovered UV light has an effect on mood such as relaxation and lower tension due to endorphins.

In the study over six weeks, participants used different tanning beds, one producing UV, while the other just heat and light. Participants were also given the option of additional tanning time on Fridays. Of the 14 participants, 12 chose additional tanning – and for 95 percent of the sessions they chose the UV bed.

In summary, the act of exposing one’s skin to the sun, or emulated environments such as tanning beds that emit UV rays, releases endorphins, creating a more relaxed mood.

It’s important to note, that while endorphins may give a feeling of ‘happiness’, the damage caused to the skin from tanning for prolonged periods will lead to lasting and in some cases serious damage.

Lasting effects to the skin from prolonged UV exposure can include skin cancer (melanoma, basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas), pigmentation, premature ageing and more.

Of course, in Australia, it is difficult to avoid the sun. And avoiding the sun altogether isn’t something The Skin Centre recommends, as it’s important to achieve a balance of skin protection, and attaining the optimal levels of vitamin D .

With all of this information in mind, that same question comes to mind, is tanning bad?

The answer is it depends on whether your skin colour is changing or not. A good tan, is no change to your skin colour (an invisible tan). A bad tan, is when you darken to any degree. This answer may not make some happy, as the definition of ‘tan’ is: to make you brown by exposure to ultraviolet rays, from the sun.

We would like to propose a new tan - an ‘invisible tan’. What would the definition be? A shortened exposure to the sun daily between 10am and 2pm, to achieve optimal vitamin D levels, without darkening the skin to any degree. By diligently protecting the skin, and only exposing the skin to UV rays for a short period of time, you can achieve all of the benefits the sun gives us, such as vitamin D and the release of endorphins, without the negative and lasting effects.

To read more about vitamin D and how long you should expose your skin, read this article.

So, is tanning bad? Yes, for prolonged periods. But stick with our ‘good invisible tan’ method, and you will be feeling happy and healthy, without the negative effects of sun exposure.