One of the biggest myths in skincare is that sunbeds are an effective way to treat skin concerns like acne and congestion. While the appeal of a quick fix and the promise of a glowing tan might be tempting, the reality of using sunbeds for acne treatment is fraught with dangers and misconceptions. As an ambassador of the Melanoma Fund, I am passionate about educating people on the various dangers of tanning beds, which I truly believe should be banned in the UK. In this blog, I explore what sunbeds are, the significant health risks they pose, and why they are not an effective solution for acne breakouts. Understanding these aspects is crucial for anyone considering sunbeds as a part of their skincare regimen. 

What Are Sunbeds?

Sunbeds, also known as tanning beds, are devices that emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation to produce a cosmetic tan. These devices use fluorescent lamps that emit UV rays, but the proportion of UVA light is significantly higher than in natural sunlight. This increases the risks of skin cancer and premature ageing from sunbed use compared with sun exposure in natural light . The amount of UVB light emitted by sunbeds is extremely low, whereas medical phototherapy involves the use of UVB light. While sunbeds are commonly used for achieving a tanned appearance, their safety and health benefits are often subjects of debate.

The Dangers of Using Sunbeds

Despite their popularity, sunbeds pose significant health risks. The UV radiation emitted by sunbeds can damage the DNA in skin cells, leading to premature aging, sunburn, and an increased risk of skin cancers, including melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the use of sunbeds before the age of 30 increases the risk of melanoma by 75%. Additionally, UV exposure from sunbeds can cause eye damage, such as cataracts and photokeratitis, commonly known as “snow blindness.”

Moreover, the misconception that sunbeds can be used as a controlled way to get vitamin D is misleading. While it is true that UVB radiation helps the skin produce vitamin D, the amount of UVB in a sunbed emission is so low that this point is not valid. Safer alternatives, such as vitamin D supplements and dietary sources, are recommended for maintaining adequate vitamin D levels without risking skin health.

Sunbeds and Acne: Why They’re Not an Effective Treatment

There is a common belief that sunbeds can help clear up acne due to their drying effect on the skin. However, this notion is not supported by scientific evidence and can be harmful in the long run. While UV radiation might temporarily reduce the appearance of acne by drying out the skin and reducing inflammation, it does not address the underlying causes of acne, which include hormonal imbalances, bacteria, and diet.

Using sunbeds as a treatment for acne can actually exacerbate skin problems. The drying effect of UV radiation can lead to overproduction of sebum (the skin’s natural oil) as the skin attempts to compensate for the dryness. This can result in more clogged pores and, consequently, more acne. Furthermore, UV radiation can cause hyperpigmentation and scarring, which are common concerns for individuals with acne-prone skin.

I generally recommend safer and more effective treatments for acne, such as topical retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and oral medications. These treatments target the root causes of acne and can significantly improve skin condition without the risks associated with UV exposure.

While the idea of using sunbeds to treat acne might seem appealing due to their immediate drying effects, the dangers and long-term consequences of UV radiation make them an unsuitable and unsafe option. The risks of premature aging, skin cancer, and exacerbation of acne far outweigh any temporary benefits. For effective acne treatment, it is best to consult with an expert and explore proven medical therapies that promote healthy skin without the harmful effects of UV radiation. Prioritising skin health and safety over cosmetic tanning is essential for long-term well-being.