What Tanning Really Does to Your Skin

The inside of a tanning bed What Tanning Really Does to Your Skin

Although many think tanning is safer than lying out in the sun, in many cases, it is just as harmful as the ultraviolet rays (UV) from the sun. The dermatologists of the Dermatology & Mohs Surgery Institute share their insight on what tanning really does to your skin and the potential dangers you face.

Insights on How Tanning Impacts Your Skin

The Inside Scoop on Indoor Tanning

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, you have a 75% increased risk of developing melanoma from just one indoor tanning session prior to age 35. Just as UV rays from the sun damage your skin, so does indoor tanning. Indoor tanning doesn’t just affect those with fair skin; it affects all skin types. Often you cannot even see the damage happening because your skin may not be burned, but you are still causing damage to your skin. Whether tanning outdoors or indoors, it increases your risk for basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. Not only can you get skin cancer from indoor tanning, but it also ages your skin by increasing the appearance of wrinkles and dry, damaged skin.

Signs of Skin Cancer

If skin cancer such as melanoma is not caught soon after it occurs, it can turn deadly. Knowing what signs and symptoms to look for can be lifesaving. BCC is the most common form of skin cancer. It affects the top layer of skin and appears as a pearly bump, sore, or elevated growth. It can be found on the areas most exposed to the sun, such as the face, scalp, chest, or back. If BCC is discovered, a dermatologist can help to easily remove it, and if it is caught in its early stage, they can help to prevent damage to surrounding tissue.

SCC is found in the upper layer of skin and appears as a scaly or crusted patch of skin. It can also be found on the face, scalp, chest, or back but isn’t limited to areas only exposed to the sun. If it isn’t caught early on, it can cause skin damage and can spread to other areas of your body.

The most deadly form of skin cancer is melanoma because of how quickly it can spread. It forms within the body or in moles. Knowing your moles and getting annual body scans can help keep an eye on any changes. If a new mole has appeared, it should be cause for concern. If your current moles have become asymmetrical, change color, change diameter, or have a different border, these are signs you will want to see a dermatologist. A dermatologist can test the moles for skin cancer and provide treatment options if necessary.

Sun Protection and Prevention

The best way to avoid damaging your skin is to avoid indoor tanning and protect your skin with SPF when you are outdoors. Wearing an SPF of 30 or higher every day ensures your skin is always protected from the sun even when you don’t see it. Sun damage can still occur on a cloudy day, so making SPF a part of your morning routine is recommended. Additionally, sunscreen should be reapplied if you are in the water. Sunglasses and other sun protective clothing are recommended for those most at risk for sunburns, such as individuals with fair skin, red hair, or a family history of skin cancer.


Early detection and protecting yourself from the sun with sunscreen and skipping the tanning beds can help you prevent skin cancer from occurring. If you are in Bloomington, Illinois, or the surrounding areas, complete this form. A dermatologist from the Dermatology & Mohs Surgery Institute can help with annual body scans, prevention tips, and treatment options.

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