Is it safe to use a sunbed? Everything you need to know before you do

Under 18s are now banned from using sunbeds in England, Scotland and Wales as they've been proven to increase the risk of skin cancer. We explain more about the risks of sunbeds

Under 18s are now banned from using sunbeds in England and Wales.

The new law came in just days after a report from Cancer Research UK was released which found that every day, more than 2 people under 35 are diagnosed with malignant melanoma - the most deadly form of skin cancer.

You can increase your chances of skin cancer by using a sunbed. In fact, using a sunbed under the age of 35 can increase your risk of melanoma by 75%, according to Cancer Research UK (opens in new tab).

It's been estimated that more than 100 deaths a year in the UK occur from skin cancer linked to sunbed use.

We talked to Cancer Research (opens in new tab) to give you the facts about sun beds and tanning.

Sunbed tanning is safer than sun tanning

False! Sun beds are not a 'safe' alternative to sun tanning. Sun beds give out ultraviolet (UV) rays just like the sun. Exposure to UV rays, whether from the sun or a sun bed, damages the DNA in your skin cells. In fact, the strength of UV rays from sun beds can be up to 10-15 times higher than that of the midday sun.

Building up a sunbed tan gradually means I'm tanning safely

False! Unfortunately, using sunscreen or limiting your time on a sun bed will not protect your skin from damage and ageing. Actually short periods of intense, irregular exposure to UV, as happens on a sun bed, is the fastest way to damage your skin. Sun beds will age your skin.

A tan will protect me from the sun on holiday

False! A tan offers a very small protection from sunlight or burning, regardless of how you got it. A sun bed tan is about equal to a sunscreen with SPF of just 2-4 and that's just not enough to keep you safe in the sun. And if you don't tan easily in the sun, you won't tan easily on a sun bed, no matter how carefully you do it.

I need a sun bed to produce vitamin D

False! Vitamin D is needed for good health and is produced by your skin when it is exposed to UV rays as well as being present in certain foods. Just a few minutes of sun on our skin produces enough Vitamin D, so you certainly don't need a sun bed to get your vitamins!

For most people if you build up normal levels during the summer, our bodies store enough of the vitamin to last us through the winter. If you are worried about your vitamin D levels talk to your doctor about changing your diet, getting out and about more, or taking vitamin supplements.

Being tanned is a sign of health

False! The simple fact that your skin has changed colour is a sign that it has been damaged. UV from sunbeds not only harms your skin, but without goggles, it can also damage your eyes and lead to irritation, conjunctivitis and eye cancer.

I need to burn to get a tan

False! Burning or going red under a sun bed is a sign that you have seriously damaged your skin. UV light can get deep into the skin's layers and damage the DNA in our skin cells. Cells damaged by UV are at greater risk of contracting cancer. If you have fair or freckly skin that tends to burn, you are at even greater risk of damaging your skin cells.

The more time I spend on sunbeds, the better my tan will look

False! We each have our own tanning limits. No matter how much UV light you get there comes a point when your skin won't get any darker. Boosting your tan by having two sun bed sessions within 24 hours or after sunbathing is particularly bad for you.

Sun beds can cause your skin to lose its smooth, supple texture and become coarse, leathery and wrinkled. You will be doing your skin a favour by getting your beauty sleep in your own bed, rather than in a sunbed.

I'm young - skin damage from sunbeds is not something I need to worry about

False! You can't always see the damage that UV does straight away. It builds up over time. But every time you use a sunbed you are harming your skin and its appearance in the long run. And this damage cannot be reversed. If you have to have surgery for skin cancer, you can end up with major scarring. Using sun beds before the age of 35 increases your risk of developing skin cancer by up to 75%. Melanoma (opens in new tab) is the second most common cancer amongst 20-39-year-olds and can be fatal.


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