Tanning safety is a topic that has blown up in recent years. Everybody has a different opinion, and it’s a controversial topic. Because it is so highly controversial, I will be presenting you purely with facts in this article, rather than my usual opinions, and let you make your own mind up about the safety of different tanning methods. 64% of physicians say that there is “no such thing as a safe tan”, whereas 36% believe that some level of tanning will not harm you. Continue reading and decide for yourself; what is the safest way to tan?


Lets begin with the most controversial topic of them all. Sun-beds. Indoor tanning beds provide you with a tan using UV lamps that emit UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate into the deepest layer of skin (the dermis), and UVB rays are responsible for superficial skin burning, and also tanning. Contrary to what some will say, both types of UV rays are dangerous for you, and both can damage your skin. Some tanning shops offer more expensive tanning beds that strip out the UVB rays, and many claim that these are safer for you as the UVB rays are responsible for burning your skin. This is only partially true, stripping out the UVB rays make it much less likely for you to burn and therefore it’s true that they are “safer” in that respect. However, it’s important to remember that any UV exposure that alters the colour of your skin changes your DNA, and this process of altering your DNA is what gives rise to the ability for cell mutation and therefore the growth of cancerous cells.

Sun-beds get a lot of bad press, some might say for good reason, but surely UV exposure in a sun-bed is the same, if not better than actual sunlight exposure as it is controlled? Does this mean sunbathing is worse for me than sun-bedding?

On average, 10 minutes in a sun-bed has the same effect on the skin as 10 minutes in the Mediterranean summer sun.

So in short- there’s not much difference. With both types of UV exposure it’s super important to be sensible and to wear SPF at all times. Neither sun-bedding nor natural tanning is “safer”, but there is an argument to be made for the fact that sun-bedding is in a more controlled environment, i.e. you can choose exactly how many minutes you bathe for so that you know you won’t burn.

So now that we know that all UV rays are ‘bad’ for you, lets look at some positives sun-bedding or sunbathing have to offer:

  • Sunlight promotes the body’s production of Vitamin D; Vitamin D is known for multiple health benefits, and is also known to be good for your mental health.
  • Sunlight exposure can be good for conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, rickets, and jaundice.
  • A ‘base tan’ from a sunbed acts as natural protection against sunburn.
  • UV ray exposure has been shown to decrease adrenaline levels and releases endorphins for that feel good feeling!

Sunless Tanning

So all UV rays are harmful. Fine. So a tan out of a bottle is surely the safest way, right?

Well, maybe not. Self tanners contain a lot of ingredients, many of which you won’t be able to pronounce, so how do we know they are safe to put on our skin?

1. Parabens

If you’ve never heard of parabens before, they are a type of preservative that were first introduced to products in the 1950s. They are designed to extend the shelf life of many beauty products and to stop the growth of bacteria within them. Many beauty products that we know and love contain parabens, but recently there has been a big question over their safety. When applied to the skin, parabens can penetrate the skin and remain in the tissue. They can disrupt hormone function by mimicking estrogen, and for this reason they have been linked to some cases of breast cancer. It’s important to note that if you’re looking for tanning or skincare products which don’t contain parabens, it’s sometimes not as simple as just looking for ‘Contains Parabens’ on the bottle. The most common paraben names that you can look out for are butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben.

2. DHA

DHA is the chemical in tans that reacts with the skins surface to darken the colour of your skin. There have been many concerns over the years about how safe DHA is for you, predominantly over how safe it is to inhale, and whether it can cause damage to your lungs. In 2010, experts at the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety concluded that DHA was not a health risk, and therefore products which contain DHA are still considered safe and are readily available on our shelves. We still do not know much about the risks of long-term exposure to DHA.

Although these 2 ingredients are accepted by many as being safe, it’s good to know that there are a few products on the market which don’t contain these ingredients; see my article: The Best Natural Ingredient Tanners.

Tanning Injections

This is a topic which has been talked about a lot in the press recently. There are injections you can use on yourself which boost your melanin production to alter the composition of your skin so that you tan quicker. People who use these injections have been seen to have dramatically altered the tone of their skin, some to the point where people have been saying that they “changed race”. The main injection people are talking about is a product called Melanotan, which is available for purchase online.

Melanotan is not legal or licensed in the UK. This is because we simply do not know the risks of this product, the product has not been tested for quality or safety, and we do not know what the side effects are or how serious these may be.



In conclusion, you could argue that there are risks with any kind of tanning, and it’s up to you as the consumer to go away and do your research to ensure that you’ve calculated the risks for your respective tanning method, and that it’s a risk you’re willing to take. It’s important to remember that every single day when we leave the house, we take risks. We all take risks in every aspect of our lives, it’s up to you to decide if the risks when it comes to your tanning routine are worth it for you.

If you have any comments or suggestions please leave them down below and I’ll get back to you!