Answered by Karyn Repinski on Monday, June 1, 2009
"Not even a little bit," says Los Angeles-based dermatologist Nicholas Lowe, M.D., author of Skin Secrets. Tanning salons advertise that they provide "safe" tans because the sunlamp bulbs used in the beds emit mostly UVA rays, the so-called tanning rays, rather than the short UVB, or sunburn, rays. "But UVA rays also damage the skin," explains Dr. Lowe. Consequently, long-term use of tanning beds may actually lead to more premature aging than regular sun tanning because UVA penetrates deeper into the skin than UVB. The result? Wrinkly, leathery skin and maybe worse: UVA has also been implicated in the development of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. If these aren't enough of an indictment against indoor tanning, Dr. Lowe adds that the "base" tan that salons promise isn't very protective at all; at its darkest, it provides the equivalent of only an SPF 5 sunscreen.