The FDA (The Food and Drug Administration) has certain regulations for artificial tanning equipment and the industry as a whole. It has introduced regulations that prohibit a person tanning under a sunlamp more than once in a 24 hour period.
This regulation was not brought in to be difficult, or just for the heck of it, there are dangers associated with ‘over tanning ‘ and overexposure to sunlamps or sunbeds.
Indoor tanning equipment offers an easy way for people to get a beautiful tan comfortably and without having to sit in the sun for hours baking away. Many people also do not like the feeling of spray tan or self-tanning lotions and prefer to have a real, gradual tan.
FDA Guidelines For Tanning Beds
Sunbeds and sunlamps are found in salons all over the US and many people prefer to use this method of tanning.
The FDA has recognized the risks of indoor tanning and requires that indoor tanning devices be labeled with a big black-box warning saying that the equipment is not to be used by people under the age of 18. This is an attempt to protect people under the age of 18 to overexposure to the UV lights, which could damage their skin. The effect of UV radiation does add up throughout a person’s life, so limiting the exposure from young will limit the total exposure in a person’s life.
Tanning salons are also required to explain the health risks of indoor tanning to consenting adult clients and have them sign a risk acknowledgment form. This is all in an effort to educate people on the dangers of UV radiation, and to help prevent it from being abused.
Some people are confused as to how this guideline works, and wonder if they tan at 9am today, will they be able to tan at 8am tomorrow? While this only falls an hour short of the 24-hour rule, it is certainly not allowed. The 24-hour rule means 24 hours, and not ‘tanning once a day’. Responsible salon owners will stick to this rule properly, ensuring the safety of their clients.
They usually accomplish this with just a simple scheduling program that will automatically prohibit someone from setting two appointments within a 24 hours period.
What is UV Radiation
UV radiation (ultraviolet radiation) is one of many forms of radiation, all which are a type of energy. UV radiation falls somewhere between visible and x-ray radiation on the electromagnetic field.
UV radiation has three different forms – UVA, UVB, and UVC.
UVA rays are the longest wavelengths of all the UV radiation. UVA rays make it through the atmosphere and are the rays that we are most commonly exposed to. UVA rays penetrate into the middle layer of your skin.
UVB does also make it through the atmosphere but is mostly absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer. UVB rays reach the outer layer of your skin.
UVC rays are absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer, so we do not come into contact with them.
Risks of indoor tanning
UV radiation penetrates deep into the skin and essentially burns the skin. There are short and long-term effects of overexposure. Exposure to UV radiation, if not controlled, can damage the skin in the following ways:
Sunburn – Sunburn is also called erythema. It is one of the most common signs of overexposure to UV radiation. The skin turns red and starts to peel after a few days. It is only the top layer of skin that peels away, but this does not mean the damage hasn’t penetrated further. The UV rays damage the cells in your epidermis, because of this your immune system increases blood flow to the affected area and this is what gives sunburn its redness. The damaged skin also sends through chemicals that cause the painful sensation felt when sunburned. During this process, white blood cells attack and remove the damaged cells, which is why you become itchy and then peel.
The best way to treat sunburn is with over the counter hydrocortisone creams, a cool bath, and aspirin. Severe sunburn should be seen to be a medical professional as an emergency.
Premature aging – Also known as photoaging, premature aging happens when there is prolonged unprotected exposure to UV radiation. Over time the skin becomes leathery, wrinkled and riddled with dark spots.
It is understood that the UV rays break down the elastin fibers and collagen in the skin, which are responsible for keeping the skin looking tight and plump. Damage to these causes wrinkles and loose skin. Dark patches can also be a result of extending the time in the sun.
Naturally, there isn’t much you can do to reverse the effects of photoaging, but chemical peels, dermabrasion, and skin fillers can all be recommended by plastic surgeons to help rejuvenate the skin.
Skin cancer – There are two types of skin cancer:
Melanoma is the less common type of skin cancer, but it is the most dangerous form. Melanoma cancer begins in the epidermal cells that produce the melanin in the skin. Melanoma is usually curable if detected early.
Non-melanomas occur in the squamous or basal cells, which are located at the base of the epidermis. These non-melanomas develop in the most sun-exposed areas of the body.
UV radiation damages the DNA in skin cells, which in turn causes the skin to grow abnormally causing growths both benign and malignant. The UV radiation also weakens the body’s immune system which compromises the body’s natural defenses against cancer cells.
The predisposition to skin cancer can actually be hereditary, so if you have a history of melanoma in your family you should take extra precautions
Eye damage – While most reputable salons require you to wear eye goggles in the tanning dome or bed, usual UV rays from the sun can damage your eyes. Photokeratitis is the sunburn of the cornea in the eyes. UVC and UVB exposure is the main culprit for this. What is interesting is that most people who develop this condition contract it in high altitude locations, from reflections of the snow in cold areas. Broken mercury lamps and types of tanning lamps can cause intense artificial sources of UVC and UVB which also cause photokeratitis. Symptoms are tearing, pain, decreased vision and swollen eyes. Corneas usually heal in 24-48 hours and your doctor should be able to prescribe a topical treatment to help relieve symptoms.
UV rays can have such damaging effects on your body, especially on your skin. The effects can range from mild to serious, and at times can be life-threatening. This all shows why the FDA needs to have regulations and guidelines in place.
Other FDA proposed guidelines
While these haven’t been fully put into place yet, there are some other key changes that have been proposed by the FDA, which would need to be implemented at tanning salons.
• Changing the wording of warning statements to make them more effective
• Limiting the amount of visible light seen through protective eyewear in order to protect consumers’ eyes from intense light.
• Improving the quality of wording on labeling for replacement bulbs so that tanning facility operators use the correct bulbs.
• Preventing manufacturers from making changes to equipment without having to recertify the device with the FDA – for example using stronger light bulbs.
• Requiring all tanning equipment and sunlamp products to have emergency off witches in case of an emergency that can be easily found by touch or sight.
What the FDA Wants You To Know When Using Tanning Devices
People will always make use of tanning devices, so the FDA is just trying to make everyone aware of the risks, and then offer up some information to protect users from any dangers or permanent harm.
Here are some helpful measures the FDA proposes people put in place to reduce risks when using an indoor tanner:
Always wear eye protection – Failure to use proper eye protection can lead to both short term and long term eye damage.
Long exposure is not recommended – Staying in a tanning machine for the maximum amount of allowed time is not advised. It can cause severe sunburn. Sunburn takes between 6-48 hours to develop so you will not know how much damage you have done until it is too late.
Follow recommended time – Manufacturers will have recommended exposure times on labels of products. Follow these carefully and take the condition of your skin into consideration when working these times out.
Medication can worsen burns – Certain medications or cosmetic products can make your skin more sensitive to UV radiation. This can result in more severe burning. Always check with a doctor or pharmacist if you can tan when on your medication.
24 Hour Tanning Rule
The 24-hour rule is there to protect users from tanning too much in a short period of time, and to prevent overexposure. The damage done by overexposure is often picked up when it is too late and is sometimes irreversible.
Exposure to UV radiation only builds throughout life, so your body will still be damaged by that serious sunburn you had twenty years ago. Always remember to limit your time in a sunbed, even when you are in the initial stages of building your tan.
Following the rules and guidelines will help prevent any serious damage to your skin and body, and hopefully leave you with a perfect, safe tan.