Tanning- The sun can give you more than several units of the much-needed vitamin D and surprisingly, it is the darkening of the skin’s pigments, also called tanning. While tanning is mostly harmless, it can snowball into even severe conditions like chronic pigmentation, sunburn, etc. For a safe summer, know about safe tanning techniques, different types and dangers of tanning and how to heal tanned skin.

Tanning Causes

Most of us know that tanning is caused when you stay in the sun for longer time periods but do you know the actual process of tanning? Ultraviolet rays emitted from the sun are harmful for the skin and it darkens your skin when exposed to direct sunlight. Here is the detailed process of tanning:

Melanocytes(skin cells) produce melanin which is a pigment in our skin that is responsible for giving color to the skin. UV rays affect melanin production which cause tanning.

Melanin undergoes a chemical reaction which is oxidation as it comes in contact with UVA rays. Oxidation makes the skin become dark and the skin, therefore, looks tanned.

Upon coming in contact with UVB rays, melanin production increase rapidly. Additionally, the cells that store melanin also undergo changes. In short, both UVA and UVB rays affect the skin and cause tanning.

The aforesaid paragraph pretty much explains the basic concept of tanning however there is much more to it that we, general public, do not know of. While UVA and UVB rays affect skin differently, one of them is more catastrophic and that is UVA rays. Both of them are damaging but UVA has more power to make your skin tanned and burnt as it can penetrate deeper into the skin as compared to the penetration potential of UVB rays. 

Talking about causes, we must also tell you about tanning beds that a lot of people use to get tanned. However, this is different from outside tan as tanning beds allow you to tan your skin inside. Tanning lights and tanning beds are extensively used by American people to tan their skin a bit. This is believed to be a safer alternative for indoor tanning but in reality, this is equally dangerous. These produce UVA and UVB rays to cause tanning but in the long run, they are highly likely to cause skin cancer. Also, tanning can become an addiction if you get it done regularly. You can easily tell if someone is addicted to tanning by looking at their skin which looks like deeply wrinkled. In short, tanning, by any means is detrimental for your skin.

Indoor Tanning

Indoor tanning might sound weird but this is a thing, or rather say, a skin treatment that a lot of people take. This process is more prevalent in the US as people with milky white skin like to darken their skin a bit using indoor tanning. In this process, you are not supposed to stay in the sun to get the tan but you make use of tanning beds and tanning lights inside the house for that tanned effect.

Indoor tanning devices are made to emit ultraviolet rays that produces tan. These are available in tanning salons, spas, hotels, gyms and even in some sports facilities. Only those who are wealthy and addicted to tanning keep devices at home for an easy access. Vertical tanning equipments are standing tanning beds or tanning booths whereas horizontal tanning equipments are solarium or sunbed. There are various reasons why people opt for tanning including achieving a tanned skin look, pre-tan to avoid sunburn during a beach holiday or treating a skin condition that is speculated to minimise in tanned skin. Psoriasis is one such skin condition that is believed to aid through tanning. This is why people use tanning devices but this is not meant for cosmetic purposes and the world health organization is against its use. Indoor tanning devices are listed as carcinogens by the WHO which means that this is a risk factor of cancer of the skin. Premature skin aging, infections, melanoma skin cancer, etc. are some of the chronic complications that tanning can give.

Tanning Risks

There are numerous cons of tanning that we will be telling you in this section:

Premature Aging

First and foremost, early aging or premature ageing of the skin is highly common with people who get tanned a lot. The other term for this condition is photoaging which is associated with unprotected or direct UV exposure. Dark spots, wrinkles and leathery skin are some of the initial symptoms of premature skin aging. UV rays penetrate deep into the skin and break down elastin and collagen fibres that are essential skin protein. This, thus, leads to loose and wrinkled skin. If you are showing signs of photoaging then you must get medical aid for the same or else the signs and spots will become permanent.

Skin Cancer

Second common con of tanning is prognosis of skin care. There are two types of skin cancer that tanning can cause namely melanoma and non-melanoma cancer. While melanoma is not common as non-melanoma, it is most dangerous. This cancer starts in melanocytes epidermal cells that produce melanin skin protein and increase gradually. Since this doesn’t exhibit warning signs, it becomes difficult to diagnose this skin cancer in the initial stage. Thus, melanoma cancer accounts for the maximum number of deaths. However, if it is diagnosed the an early stage, it can be easily cured.

Non-melanoma cancer, on the other hand, is more evident and thus, it can e easily identified by the doctor. This cancer develops in the basal or squamous cells that are situated in the lower side of epidermis skin layer. 

Actinic or Solar Keratoses

The next disease that is caused due to tanning is solar keratoses which can progress into skin cancer over time. When you expose your skin to sun for longer time or almost daily, it can lead to this pre-malignant skin condition. Scaly bumps, rough and raised bumps, severe sunburn, etc. are common signs and symptoms of solar keratoses.


Not just skin but tanning or overexposure to sun can also cause damage to your eyes. Photokeratitis is one such condition causes sunburn of the cornea. When your eyes are exposed to UV rays, they can penetrate into the cornea and cause sun damage. This condition is highly prevalent in snowy environment where UVB reflections are higher than plain areas. Thus, this condition is also called as ‘snow blindness’. Uncontrolled tearing, pain in the eyes, hazy or blurry vision, swollen eyelids are some symptoms of photokeratitis.