Risks of Artificial Tanning

Caroline Beaudoin
November 20, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2016


Fig. 1: UV Rays on the Electromagnetic Spectrum. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Tanned skin is idealized in American culture today, but at the risk of serious health issues. Skin cells are sensitive to ultraviolet radiation and respond by darkening themselves as protection from the exposure. Tanning beds artificially emit UV radiation similar to rays coming from the sun. People must proactively protect themselves from UV exposure whether natural or artificial, such as in tanning beds, to keep their skin cells healthy. [1] Despite society's pressures to look a certain way it is imperative that society reverses this beauty standard.

How UV Rays Work

UV rays, as seen on Fig. 1, lay on the shorter end of the energy spectrum and is shorter than visible light. The most common wavelengths range from radio, microwave, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, x-ray, to gamma ray. UV rays have a high frequency and energy. [2] They are divided into the three following categories based on their wavelengths:

Health Effects

UV exposure to skin cells damages the DNA of the cells which can result in mutations. These mutations can lead to long term health effects such as skin cancer. Short term effects of over-exposure include sunburn, photoaging, and cataracts. [2] Tanning beds increase the risk of developing cancerous melanoma cells by approximately 75 percent. [2]


Although tanning beds claim to provide a "safe" alternative to real tanning, that is false. The consequences of tanning are just as dangerous and not worth the risk. Preventative measures to avoid these health perils consist of applying sunscreen, wearing layers and eye protection, avoiding sunlight when the UV index is high, and staying away from tanning beds. [1]

© Caroline Beaudoin. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[2] "Tanning Salons Fact Sheet," Health Physics Society, January 2010.

[1] "Artificial Tanning Sunbeds Risks and Guidance," World Health Organization, 2003.