When you tan indoors, machines deliver high doses of ultraviolet (UV) radiation to your body. UV radiation damages your skin cells. The damage to your skin cells from UV radiation is what causes your body to produce melanin, the pigment that darkens skin color.
Each time you tan, you increase your risk of the following:
Indoor tanning can cause skin cancer, including : basal and squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma. All skin cancers, but especially melanoma, can be deadly. Tanning also increases the risk of eye cancer.
Indoor tanning can cause first- or second-degree skin burns.
Indoor tanning can cause severe burrns to the cornea – the clear outer covering of the eye. Greater lifetime UV exposure also increases your risk of cataracts – which is the clouding of the eye’s lens that affects vision.
Tanning while using certain medications or cosmetics can increase sensitivity to UV radiation and cause exaggerated skin burns, itching, scaling, rashes or swelling. Medications and products that may make you more sensitive to UV radiation include, but are not limited to:
- Acne treatments
- Anticonvulsants and tranquilizers
- Some perfumes, essential oils, deodorants and tattoo ink
Other Health Problems
Tanning weakens your immune system and can worsen some existing medical conditions. For example, people treated for Herpes simplex may have recurring cold sores, and the effectiveness of vaccines may be weakened.
How to Protect Yourself
Operators of indoor tanning facilities in New York City are required to follow guidelines to limit your risk of illness and injury from tanning.
- Limit your use of indoor tanning equipment to reduce your risk of cancer and other injuries
- Learn your skin type to understand how easily you might burn. The operator is required to determine your type using a skin classification system.
- Ask the operator how long you can tan based on your skin type. Maximum tanning time differs for each person.
- Check the maximum time for using your tanning machine. This information must be displayed on a sign next to the machine. Your tanning session must never be longer than the maximum posted time.
- You must follow the manufacturer’s recommendations including the exposure schedule.
- Avoid starting with long exposures (close to the maximum time for the specific sunlamp product), which can lead to burning.
- Some skin types should not tan with UV radiation at all, for example, those with skin that burns easily and doesn’t readily tan.
- Tell the operator about any burn, rash or injury you believe resulted from using a tanning device.
- Use protective eyewear - it’s the law.
- If you do not have protective eyewear, ask the operator. It must be provided to you at no extra cost. Closing your eyes does not protect you!
- Check with your doctor before tanning.
- If a tanning business you use does not follow the guidelines above, call 311 to file a tanning facility complaint.
Resources for Consumers
Resources for Operators