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MSD Manual

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Are Tans Healthy?

Are Tans Healthy?

In a word—no. Although a suntan is often considered an emblem of good health and of an active, athletic life, tanning for its own sake has no health benefit and is actually a health hazard. Any exposure to ultraviolet A or B (UVA or UVB) light can alter or damage the skin. Long-term exposure to natural sunlight causes skin damage and increases the risk of skin cancer. Exposure to the artificial sunlight used in tanning salons is harmful as well. The UVA lights used in these establishments cause the same long-term effects as exposure to UVB light, such as wrinkling and mottled pigmentation (photoaging) and skin cancer. Quite simply, there is no safe tan.

Self-tanning, or sunless, lotions do not really tan the skin but, rather, stain it. They therefore provide a safe way to achieve a tanned look without risking dangerous exposure to ultraviolet rays. However, because they do not increase melanin production, self-tanning lotions do not offer protection from the sun. Therefore, sunscreens should still be used during exposure to sunlight. Results with the use of self-tanning lotions may vary, depending on a person’s skin type, the formulation used, and the manner in which the lotion is applied.