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Planning for a tanning? 5 sunbed myths busted

Home / beauty / Planning for a tanning? 5 sunbed myths busted


Who doesn’t love a glorious tan? Now that the autumn is upon us, and the sun is disappearing behind the clouds, many people look to top up the tan by heading for a session or two under the sunbed. The use of sunbeds has grown hugely in the last few years thanks to being a quick, cheap and painless way of maintaining that ‘just back from holidays’ look. However, as I point out to my clients, the fastest way to make the skin look older is through UV (ultraviolet) exposure. The other is smoking. Who wants to look old before their time?

So, our faces are the most exposed part of our bodies outdoors, obviously. Therefore, they will automatically get the most exposure to the sun and elements. On a hot, sunny day, those rays are actively causing our skin to try and protect itself, by producing temporarily high pigment levels to reflect the sun. Sounds good so far?


Over time, that pigment forms blobs under the skin that look like small dark patches, the characteristic ‘age spots’ I treat a lot of. Therefore, they show up most on the face as we get older, but now we see more in younger adults. Sunbed use for under 18s became illegal in the UK in 2012, as the risks overwhelmingly outweigh the benefits.

[Age spots]

Sunbeds were promoted as a ‘safer’ tan for a long time. However we know now this is not the case. Here’s 5 sunbed myths busted for you in case you were thinking of popping under the lamps


  1. Sunbeds are safer than sunlight. In fact, depending on the strength of the lamp, the UV level is often higher. That ‘sizzling’ effect on the skin is not a healthy glow, it is fact a desperate rear-guard action to fend off the attack of the UV. The risk of skin cancer is the same on a sunbed as with natural sunlight. Remember that.
  2. I can ‘train’ my skin to tan over time. I’m amazed how many people with fair skin think they can ‘train it’ to tan by starting with short tanning sessions and building up. The skin doesn’t behave like that, it simply burns more frequently. In fact, all the evidence suggests that multiple short, low level tanning sessions are worse for the skin than a few longer sessions. If you burn easily the first time, that’s not going to change.
  3. Suncream buys more time under the sunbed. This is a big mistake I often see, that people think applying some suncream means a longer tanning session will be safer. It’s not true.
  4. Having a light sunbed tan protects me in the sunshine. Studies suggest a protection level of SPF 2-3 at best i.e. peanuts. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.
  5. I don’t burn, so I’m fine. The damage under the skin is already being done with any visible skin colour changes, and if you’ve reached the point of sunburn, your skin is not only really painful, but is now a broken barrier at risk of infection and fluid loss.


So, what to do? Fake tan? It’s true these have become very popular products in recent years, boosted by celebrity endorsements as well as the fact they can be applied at home. The best that can be said is that they can only really affect the very outer layers of the skin, so deep damage is unlikely, except for those containing DHA (best to avoid) . On the other hand, you can end up looking like Dale Winton. Do you really want that?



Keeping it simple, we all need some sunlight in our lives, it’s good for Vitamin D level in the body (for our bones) and it boosts our endorphins. The fact is that in the UK, despite our national pastime of complaining about the weather, we receive enough sun in the summer to keep our Vitamin D up. But we need to respect the sun and the UV rays. Your skin colour is what it is because it’s hardwired into your DNA, trying to change that goes against your skin’s natural instincts. So here’s what to do:-

  1. Treat a sunbed as you would a sunbathing session and weigh up the benefits/risks accordingly
  2. Longer, infrequent sessions are better than short, multiple sessions
  3. Wear eye goggles!

The excellent Cancer Research UK website has lots more tips on being sensible in the sun


Until next time, be safe out there, and above all, be confident. It’s a good look any time of the year.


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