WHAT IS A TAN WORTH?
One in ten americans will use a tanning bed this year.
You know how it goes—some say that eggs are bad for you. Some say that eggs are good for you. Some swear that natural sugar is far superior to refined sugar. Then along comes one who says that all sugars are processed by the body in the same way.
For every person on one side of an issue, you can find another who holds the opposite view. If scientists and physicians can’t agree on which camp is correct, how can we? It’s enough to make a person just throw in the towel and go with the flow. Health recommendations are like the weather: If you don’t like the current slant, just wait awhile. It will change.
ARE TANNING BEDS A HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE TO SUNLIGHT?
The controversy over tanning beds is not that complicated. When they first came on the scene, in the 1980s, the beds—looking suspiciously like well-lit coffins—were touted as a safe alternative to sunbathing. Some manufacturers even claimed that your chances of getting skin cancer decreased by using their product. Those arguments have been pretty well debunked. Whether from the sun or from a tanning bed, the primary medical fact is this: Ultraviolet radiation damages the skin and can lead to cancer.
The murkiest part of the tanning bed debate is about more than melanoma. Oddly enough, it is about nutrition. For years, vitamin D deficiency was not a huge topic. It was thought to be relevant only within the chronically disadvantaged and undernourished segment of the world’s population. Recent findings, however, show that vitamin D levels in our body serve to do more than just fend off rickets. And our affluent society may be running on the low side of the essential requirement.
WHAT ABOUT VITAMIN D?
Often called "the sunshine vitamin," the body manufactures vitamin D upon exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB ) rays. Of course, recommendations of how much sun exposure we need, and how often we need it, vary widely. Short periods of light therapy, especially during winter months, are beneficial, but tanning beds are not the only option; personal indoor sun lamps are often used to fend off the winter doldrums. A major point to consider is this: The ultraviolet rays that stimulate the production of vitamin D are of the UVB variety. Tanning beds are set to predominantly emit the deeper-reaching UVA rays. Those will give you the tan, but they won’t produce the vitamin.
The buzz about vitamin D is fueled by the wide array of benefits it is thought to deliver. In addition to the well-known need for the D vitamin to build and maintain strong bones, it also appears that heart function, mental health, immune system effectiveness, and more are affected by vitamin D. Further claims are that it can help to prevent cancer and diabetes, keep blood pressure low, and alleviate arthritis. If that doesn’t make you dizzy, consider this: Vitamin D isn’t really a vitamin; it is a hormone.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MY HEALTH?
The traditional source of vitamin D is cod liver oil. If you can stand the taste, that is still the best solution. Those with a more discriminating palate can turn to salmon, tuna, and mackerel for their dose of D. Milk is typically fortified with a significant amount of the vitamin, and eggs provide a modest amount.
Everyone should take a dietary supplement like Melaleuca’s Vitality Pack®, and Oligo™ technology can make sure that the vitamins and minerals you take actually get absorbed into your system. For most of us, the combination of sensible outdoor exercise, a nutrient-rich diet, and daily supplementation with one of the Vitality Packs powered by Oligo™ will ensure that we get the nutrition we need.
Many of our biggest decisions in life are simple. The arguments may be difficult to understand, but the basics are evident. Concerning tanning and tanning beds, this is what we know for sure:
- That gold and bronze tone to your skin is attractive, but it is also dangerous. When you have a tan, you have skin damage. That is what a tan is made of. If big noses were popular, would you pop yourself a good one in order to measure up? True health trumps the appearance of health every time.
- Ultraviolet exposure can spur your body to produce vitamin D, but too much ultraviolet light can damage your skin and may lead to cancer. There really aren’t two sides to this story: “There is no safe tanning device.”1
- The artificial rays generated by tanning beds may not burn you, but they can cause cellular damage at a deeper level—and the results may not be evident for years. The line between safe and unsafe exposure limits is hazy.
- Incidents of skin cancer in the United States are increasing dramatically. A recent three-year study, supported by the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society, indicated that those who use tanning beds are three times more likely to develop skin cancer than those who do not.2
IS THERE ANOTHER OPTION?
Mothers arm themselves with bottles of sunscreen and douse the kids whenever they can be caught out of doors. UVA- and UVB-blocking skin care products are a valuable tool for preventing skin damage and painful burns. Those who spend significant time in the sun will find the protection they need in the Melaleuca Sun Shades™ line of sunscreens, lip balms, and hydrogel.
If you are someone who simply must have that perpetual tan, though, the new breed of tanning lotions and sprays can give you that sought-after look of wealth and health. Newer yet is a technique called airbrush tanning, or the “miracle tan.” Walk into the airbrush studio today and look like a movie star tomorrow. Sure it costs a bit, and it normally fades away within a week—but, hey, you get to sport a tan for a while.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Healthy skin is beautiful skin. Beware risking your long-term health for a short-term cosmetic benefit. Find less-risky methods for increasing your vitamin D. Remember, you are beautiful just the way you are.