By Shiv Das
Scotland’s tanning habits, be it through sunbeds or fake tan sprays and lotions, represent an important part of our country’s culture. With our often miserable weather it’s safe to say Scotland doesn’t provide us with the right conditions to get a natural tan on the beach, so is it any wonder that people are increasingly resorting to sunbed tanning to get that golden glow?
You don’t have to venture far in Edinburgh to spot a sunbed salon. With names ranging from Bronze and Beauty to Sunset Beach, you can easily find these tanning studios on the city’s main streets, and generally they are bustling with customers. Sunbeds are evidently a significant part of the Scottish lifestyle, as young men and women aim to darken their skin, and become more exotic-looking. Interestingly this is contrasted with the perceived notion of beauty in India, where the fairer you are, the more attractive you are. In June 2012 The Times of India revealed that 61% of the country’s dermatological market was made up of skin lightening products. It seems opposites really do attract when it comes to skin tone.
Chatting to Edinburgh’s general public, I found that many people equate being darker to looking healthier and more attractive. Some users even liked the relaxing feel of lying down on a warm sunbed and the fact that it uniformly tans you all over your body- no tanlines or streaks here!
But are six minutes of relaxation and an even tan worth the potential damage to your health? Consistent sunbed tanning has been scientifically proven to increase the risk of getting the most dangerous kind of skin cancer, malignant melanoma. A 2012 survey by YouGov for Nuffield Health showed that malignant melanoma rates have increased by 16% among people aged 16-34 in the UK over the past five years, while Cancer Research UK revealed that more than two 15 to 34-year-olds in Scotland are diagnosed with the disease each week. So why aren’t the risks involved in sunbed tanning enough to put us off our quest for the perfect bronzed bod?
Gill Perkins of The Sunbed Association says that “a moderate use” of sunbeds under “controlled conditions” does not pose any harmful risks and can actually provide health benefits, such as providing you with vitamin D, essential for maintaining a healthy bone structure. However, with the malignant melanoma figures speaking for themselves, I’d rather eat some oily fish to get my daily dose of vitamin D.
Sheila Dryden, a leading NHS dermatologist, is keen to emphasise that using sunbeds DOES lead to skin damage in the long term. “The ultraviolet radiation of the sunbed rays will age your skin, damaging it and destroying the DNA cells,” she says. “Over time this DNA damage can build up and lead to skin cancer.”
And it’s not just your skin that suffers under the ultraviolet lights. According to the World Health Organisation, 5% of cataract-related disease is attributable to UV light, with 900,000 people worldwide suffering as a result of overexposure. Dousing yourself in moisturiser might help keep the wrinkles at bay, but the only way to keep your eyes safe is to wear sunglasses when we do get those rare days of summer, and avoid intensive sunbed rays like the plague.
Everyone has the right to feel attractive and healthy, and for many tanning is one way to do this, but be aware of the risks involved. Educate yourself with proper information, consider fake tanning, and if you really must get your sunbed fix then use sunscreen. You would do it on holiday, so why wouldn’t you do it on a sunbed? Use your brain- sometimes it should come before beauty.