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Tanning Bed vs Self-Tanner Pros and Cons

Want that sun-kissed glow? We have advice. Read on to learn whether you should choose a tanning bed or self tanner

Learn whether you should choose a tanning bed or a self tanner

Throughout our modern era, women have long chased after the perfect tan. From our grandmothers in the fifties to our teenagers of today, a golden glow is a timeless symbol of youth and vitality, reminiscent of both Hollywood starlets and the idle rich. Whether you want to appear 10 pounds thinner or just look like you vacationed in Palm Springs, a bronzed body is always flattering and in style.

For some, obtaining that perfect tan is easy, requiring little more than a slather of baby oil, a plastic lawn chair, and a clear view of the sun. But for many of us, tanning isn’t achievable through a lazy afternoon nap. Whether you’re fair skinned and burn just thinking about the sun, or you live in a gloomy, overcast climate, tanning, like most things, isn’t a one size fits all solution. What's more, it's proven that too much sun exposure is actually very bad for your skin.

If outdoor tanning isn’t feasible for you, there are two alternatives you can still take to obtain a bronzed body – using self-tanner or a tanning bed. But which method is best, and should you care about the potentially harmful side effects of fake baking?

How Tanning Beds Work

The tanning bed was the original means of indoor bronzing and is still perhaps the most effective. Tanning beds work by exposing your body to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which triggers melanin production in your skin. Melanin is the natural pigmentation within our bodies, which everyone produces in varying levels, and the reason for all our different skin tones.

Besides triggering melanin production, tanning beds also help with Vitamin D production, which is a huge plus since many of us are deficient. A lack of Vitamin D can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and make us feel depressed, weak and sluggish.

Tanning beds may also help with certain skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, and, with the combination of vitamin D and a healthy glow, may boost your overall mood so you feel happier.

Tanning Bed Risks

Everyone knows the one major con to indoor tanning beds – the increased risk of developing melanoma, a form of skin cancer. Another scary fact: those who first use a tanning bed before the age of 35 increase their risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent.

And since there are over 419,000 tanning bed related skin cancer diagnoses each year, it really raises the question, is that golden glow worth the risk?

How Sunless Tanners Work

A safer indoor-tanning alternative to beds, sunless tanners promise to provide a bronze glow without the risk of developing skin cancer. Sunless tanners use the active ingredient DHA (dihydroxyacetone) which combines with our body’s amino acids to brown our dead, outer layers of skin, which, in turn, causes the “tanning” effect.

And you can indeed achieve a beautiful look from sunless tanner if you know how apply it properly. The key, according to dermatologists, is to start with clean, exfoliated skin, followed by an application through a tanning mitt or airbrush machine, which eliminate the overly tanned hands or streaky look that comes from improper application.

Drawbacks of Sunless Tanners

Once they first came to market, sunless tanners initially received a chilly reception from the beauty world, thanks to their unflattering zebra-like streaks and propensity to turn the user bright orange.

However, with time their formulas have greatly improved, and sunless tanners now have the ability to provide a smooth, even tan without causing carrot-like streaks on your legs.

Another concern with airbrush tanning is that the user is inhaling a mist of the DHA solution, which may lead to respiratory issues, however, dermatologists point out that to date, no toxicity has been proven from indoor tanners.

It’s also important to note that while sunless tanners provide your skin with a perfect faux-glow, they will not protect your skin from UV-rays. So if you find that you burn easily in the sun, you’ll still likely burn easily as your fake tan won’t offer additional protection. Therefore, dermatologists recommend the usage of sunblock in addition to your sunless tanning routine.

Our Takeaway

Whether you opt to tan naturally outdoors, or go the indoor route of beds or creams, your best tanning plan will come from your personal preferences, climate conditions, and starting skin-tone. Whatever method you choose in transitioning your skin from a pasty white to a burnished bronze, just be aware of the pros and cons that go along with each so that you can make a smart, safe, and informed tanning decision.

Resources — Skin Cancer.org, Palm Beach Tan, National Institute of Health

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