Sunlamp and Sunbed Advice

by Philia2 – MuscleTalk Pro-Member

Sunlight strengthens the body’s inherent defence system. It provides protection from those illnesses which weaken the immune system and hence reduces susceptibility to infection. In the autumn and winter months, the overall amount of radiation from the sun reaching the earth falls. The days get cooler and shorter, and even the amount of ultra-violet (UV) radiation is diminished. This can be seen by the fact that even when the sun is shining, tanning is virtually nil.

Measurements show that between October and February, the amount of ultra-violet radiation in our latitudes is so low that the sun has practically no health-giving effects whatsoever. As different people store up the sun’s beneficial effects to differing degrees, the UV radiation lamps constitute an ideal substitute for natural sunlight. Sunbeds have been available since 1906 but came into fashion in the 1970s and by the mid-1980s they were a boom industry.

An attractively tanned skin improves the personality. Whilst in former centuries paleness was considered distinguished, a natural tan is a sign of athleticism, attractiveness and health today. The exterior appearance – the natural outfit – is an expression of personal lifestyle for more and more people. Irrespective of whether at work or in your free time – you are received better.

Tanning in Spring

  • prevents spring fatigue
  • builds a skin-inherent light protection
  • prepares the skin for summer

Tanning in Summer

  • prepares the skin for holidays
  • comforts people who have to spend their holiday at home
  • produces a nice tan without the heat of summer

Tanning in Autumn

  • prolongs summer
  • renders healthy and relaxed looks
  • makes you fit for winter

Tanning in Winter

  • provides rays of hope for a better mood
  • improves health
  • renders a dynamic, active appearance

What is sunlight?

Sunlight is energy, which is transferred by means of electro-magnetic rays or waves with different wavelengths. We can differentiate between ultra-violet rays (UV light), visible light, and warm infrared radiation (IR light). The UV light is subdivided up into UV-A, UV-B and UV-C rays. The dangerous UV-C rays are filtered out by the ozone layer and do not reach the surface of the earth; they are the most damaging type of ultraviolet light to skin.

The composition and strength of UV-A and UV-B rays varies and depends on the time of day and year, air pollution, degree of latitude and the intensity of reflection (water, snow, etc).

Basically, a tan is nothing other than the body’s inherent protection against sunlight . The natural brown colour in our skin is called melanin. People who have more melanin tan more easily and have more protection against sunburn and skin cancer. Each type of UV light penetrates the skin to a different degree and has different amounts of energy; the shorter wavelength UV-B light carrying more energy but penetrating the skin less than UV-A. UV-B is scattered and absorbed in the upper layers (epidermis) of the skin and encourages the cells of the epidermis (melanocytes) to produce more white melanin pigments, which, on their way to the upper dermal layer, are tanned by the UV-A rays and the oxygen contained in the blood (indirect pigmentation). If preliminary pigmentation has taken place already, the skin will be tanned immediately by UV-A rays (direct pigmentation).

The pleasant effects of UV rays on the body and soul have been substantiated by medicine. The natural formation of vitamin D3 takes place only from the sun or sunbeds, or put more precisely, under the influence of UV-B rays. Vitamin D3 is an important hormone for the protection of bone, protecting against osteoporosis as it is involved in calcium deposition in bones. What’s more, the UV radiation prevents any overproduction of vitamin D thanks to its regulatory effect on the skin’s biochemical processes.

Still further positive properties are attributed to this ‘sun hormone’. It stimulates the immune system, increases the body’s own physical powers, alleviates depression and has a positive affect on the heart and circulation. Even skin diseases are treated with UV light (phytotherapy) with great success, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and neurodermatitis, which has been in use for many years either alone or in combination with other therapies. In dermatology only UV-A and UV-B are used for therapy.

In medical circles, these lamps are referred to as photo-therapeutic or heIiotherapeutic apparatus; in private usage, they are called sunbeds or solaria. Most of the solaria on the market have a radiation spectrum almost identical to that of natural sunlight (they use mainly UV-A and a small amount of UV-B). However, the health-giving UV-B radiation is very much diminished so as to prevent the risk of sunburn, with the result that solaria are thus kinder to skin than their natural equivalent.

The overall ‘dose’ of UV-B radiation received during a given session is enough to trigger all the vital biochemical processes in the body. As a consequence, the body’s immune system is also strengthened on the one hand through the formation of vitamin D, and on the other, as shown by research which has been going on since the beginning of this century, by activating the phagocytic system. Phagocytes (a type of white blood cell) protect the body by ‘eating up’ alien bodies such as viruses, bacteria and other invading microorganisms.

The biopositive effects of heliotherapy on the heart and circulatory system were known even in ancient times, and the circulatory, performance and stamina-enhancing effects of different UV applications were described as long ago as the 1920s and 30s. UV radiation improves irrigation of the muscles and vessels of the heart, lowers oxygen needs and regulates blood pressure.

Tanning Safety Tips

As with exposure to natural sunlight, too much exposure to UV radiation from tanning equipment can damage your skin and sometimes your general health. Research suggested that the earlier people start tanning, the higher the risk. When you use a sunlamp you add to the UV radiation your skin already receives from the sun but if you sunburn easily and find it difficult to tan from natural sunlight, you won’t tan in a sunbed either.

Skin Types

Depending on the type of skin, people react differently to sunlight. You should know your type of skin for correct enjoyment of the sun and sunbeds. Worldwide, six types of skin are differentiated, the first four types of skin occur most frequently in Europe.

  • Skin type 1 (approx 2% of all Central Europeans): remarkably light skin, reddish hair, blue eyes, very strong tendency to develop sunburn
  • Skin type 2 (approx 12% of all Central Europeans): light skin, blond to medium-brown hair, blue to grey or green eyes, strong tendency to develop sunburn
  • Skin type 3 (approx 78% of all Central Europeans): normal skin, dark-blond to brown hair, grey to brown eyes, moderate tendency to develop a sunburn
  • Skin type 4 (approx 8% of all Central Europeans): light-brown to olive-coloured skin, dark hair and eyes, slight tendency to develop a sunburn

Even in winter with little sunshine we can provide ourselves with the missing sunshine on a sunbed. Contrary to the natural sun, which is subject to strong variations, tanning on a sunbed can be used precisely and individually. No matter whether you get your tan from the sun or tanning equipment, you should learn to recognise the early warning signs of serious damage. Most skin cancers are completely curable if detected in the early stages. Look for progressively changing moles or other skin discolorations. If you have any doubts, consult your doctor – don’t delay!

Short-term damaging effects

  • sunburned skin, which becomes painful, red and may blister and peel
  • skin dryness and itching
  • bumpy itchy rash
  • eye irritation or conjunctivitis (if suitable goggles are not worn)

Long-term health risks

  • premature ageing of the skin which will then look coarse, leathery and wrinkled
  • skin cancer – the more exposures, the greater the risks
  • increased risk of cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) later in life (if suitable goggles are not worn)

Because of this, the amount of UV light is closely monitored and the amount used should be kept to a safe limit.


Don’t use cosmetic tanning equipment if your skin is particularly sensitive.

As some people are more prone to skin damage caused by UV radiation than others, you are advised not to use cosmetic tanning equipment if:

  • you are under 16
  • you have fair, sensitive skin that burns easily or tans poorly
  • you have a history of sunburn, especially in childhood
  • you have a large number of freckles and/or red hair
  • you have a large number of moles
  • you are taking medicines or using creams which may sensitise the skin to sunlight (photosensitising drugs – running the risk of appearance of ‘liver spots’ – the brown pigmentation also known as lentigenes)
  • you have a medical condition that is worsened by sunlight
  • you or anyone in your family have had a skin cancer in the past
  • If you have any doubts, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe for you to use tanning equipment

Also, don’t use cosmetics before tanning. Some cosmetics, deodorants and similar preparations for use on the skin can increase sensitivity to UV radiation. It is best not to use them immediately before a tanning session and to wash off any that are on the skin, before using the equipment.

Tan gently. Do not overdo things, tan sensibly.

This is the most important rule of all, which means that you should sunbathe no more than once a day. The rule of thumb is a maximum of ten times within a fortnight to three weeks. One to two times a week is sufficient to conserve the tan reached. By carefully planned preliminary tanning, sun allergies and the so-called Mallorca acne can be avoided. Keep to the tanning time recommended for your type of skin. The International Agreed Standard (Euronorm) recommends no more than 50 sessions per year. If you notice any abnormal skin reactions developing during or after a tanning session, stop the exposure at once and do not use tanning equipment again before consulting a doctor. Seek medical advice if you notice any change in the appearance of a mole.

Protect your eyes

Make sure you use the goggles or other eye protection provided; these should be worn all the time the equipment is switched on. If no eye protection is used, do not use the equipment.

Don’t rely on your tan for protection

When people use sunlamps and sunbeds, UV-A darkens any melanin in the skin, giving a tan, but the tan you develop won’t protect you from the harmful effects of our sun.

Useful information and references:

  1. Health Education Authority, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9TX Tel: 0208 413 2636
  2. Cancer Research Campaign, 10 Cambridge Terrace, NW1 4JL Tel: 0208 224 1333
  3. Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3PX Tel: 0208 269 3413
  4. National Radiological Protection Board, Chilton, Didcot, Oxon OX11 0RQ Tel: 01235 831600

This information for customers is issued jointly by the Health and Safety Executive and the Department of Health.

  • The Cancer Society of New Zealand 07/11/1999
  • German Federal Association of Sunlight Systems Document courtesy of: Helga Luise Hass (Press Officer)
  • Society for the Promotion of Solar Research
  • Sunquest Tanning Systems Ltd.
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