Tanning is out

Tanning goggles on a towel with blue UV light from a tanning bed

Why indoor tanning is unsafe

Indoors or outdoors, there’s no safe way to get a tan. Tanning beds and sun lamps release UV rays – just like the sun. Tanned skin is damaged skin. And when the tan fades, the damage is still there.
Tanning goggles on a towel with blue UV light from a tanning bed

Indoor tanning causes cancer

When you expose your skin to UV rays – whether from the sun, tanning beds or sun lamps – you increase your chances of getting skin cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies UV-emitting devices, such as tanning beds, as known cancer-causing substances. This is the highest rating they can give in terms of whether the evidence shows that something causes cancer.

Research shows that being exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning equipment before the age of 35 increases your risk of melanoma (skin cancer).

Open tanning bed with blue UV light showing

Did you know?

About 27% of young women use indoor tanning equipment. Use of indoor tanning equipment before the age of 35 leads to a 59% increased risk of melanoma. There’s no safe way to get a tan. Tanned skin is damaged skin. Don’t use indoor tanning beds or sun lamps.
Open tanning bed with blue UV light showing

4 myths about indoor tanning

Indoor tanning is never safe. These myths can hurt you. Don’t believe them.

"Having a tan is healthy."
No, it’s not. Tanned skin can lead to premature aging and skin cancer. If you really want a tan, try a sunless tanning product. Don’t forget that when you’re using a fake tanning product, you still need to use sunscreen when out in the sun.
"My tan protects me from the sun."
Nope! A tan offers almost no protection from sunlight or burning. Some tanning beds can expose you to 5 times more radiation than the sun. Getting a tan from a tanning bed doesn’t protect you from the sun – it does more harm than the sun.
"I'll get my vitamin D by going to the tanning salon."
Tanning beds are not a safe way to get your vitamin D. It is safer to get it from your diet and by taking vitamin supplements.
"Tanning provides relief for health issues."
There are certain disorders that can be treated by UV light – for example, some skin conditions and arthritis – but treatment should only be done by a healthcare professional. For seasonal affective disorder (SAD), light therapy may be recommended. But treatment for SAD uses white light, not UV light. Indoor tanning is not recommended to treat SAD.

Safe alternatives to a tan

Want to get that sun-kissed look without the risk of skin cancer? There are lots of sunless tanning products that will give you a summer glow.
Are sunless tanning products safe?

Bronzers, self-tanners and spray tanners have not been shown to pose a health risk and are considered safe to use – if they’re applied correctly and carefully. They should only be applied externally to the skin and should not be used near your lips, mouth and nose or around your eyes. Be sure to protect those areas even if the sunless tanning product is being sprayed or airbrushed on professionally.

You should also be careful not to breathe in or swallow any of the products. If you’re applying the product yourself, follow the same precautions and follow the directions on the label.

Do I still need to wear sunscreen and protect my skin from the sun?

Yes. Sunless tanning products do not protect your skin from sun damage. Some self-tanning products contain sunscreen, but their sun protection factor (SPF) is generally low. Your tan will not protect you from exposure to harmful UV rays.

What are bronzers?
Bronzers are cosmetics that temporarily tint the skin’s surface a golden brown to give it a tanned look and can easily be washed off with soap and water. Tinted moisturizers and brush-on powders are bronzers. Bronzers are generally considered to be safe to use.
What are self-tanners?
Self-tanners that you apply to your skin are available in many forms, including lotions, creams, gels, mousses, cosmetic wipes and sprays. The most common ingredient used in self-tanners is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA is a sugar compound that comes from plant sources and is a colour additive. When absorbed, DHA reacts with the top layer of the skin and darkens or stains it, giving the skin a bronzed colour and the appearance of a tan. The “tan” is temporary and fades when you stop using the product and as the skin cells slough off. It usually disappears within about a week unless the product is reapplied.
Person getting a spray tan

What are spray tanners?

Spray tanners are like self-tanners, but they can be applied professionally by airbrushing or in spray tanning booths, which use sprays or misters to apply a solution to the body in a very short time. The most common ingredient in these solutions is DHA.

Person getting a spray tan

What are tanning pills and injectables? Are they safe?

Health Canada has not approved the use of oral tanning products (also known as tanning pills) or injectable tanning products for tanning purposes. Until they have been reviewed and experts believe they are safe, these products should not be used.