If you live in a country without much sun, chances are you’ve wondered “do you get Vitamin D from tanning beds”?
Sure we all know your skin makes Vitamin D when you spend time in the sun.
But what if you live away from the equator and there’s no sun, say during winter? Should you visit a tanning salon?
It’s important to understand how tanning beds work, their risks and if they really help you get Vitamin D?
If you’ve thought about getting Vitamin D from a tanning bed, then this article is for you.
I’ll share what the experts have to say about it, how tanning beds work, the benefits and the risks.
We’ll also explore the only proven ways to get Vitamin D that actually work.
Ultimately we’ll answer the question – do you get Vitamin D from tanning beds?
So grab your shades and stick around.
Do You Get Vitamin D From Tanning Beds?
No, you do not get Vitamin D from tanning beds.
The reason is that the bulbs used in tanning beds emit UV-A light which is different to the UV-B light that your body needs to produce Vitamin D.
The only true and proven ways to get Vitamin D is from sunlight, Vitamin D rich foods and supplements.
How Do Tanning Beds Work?
So perhaps you’re curious, how do tanning beds work exactly?
And what’s the difference between a lighter or darker tan?
Tanning salons offer 2 main types of tanning facilities. A stand-up facility and a tanning bed.
Tanning beds contain fluorescent lamps (about 10–15 lamps per bed).
These lamps have a power of about 100 -200 watts and an inductor that controls the rate of electrical current flowing through them.
When they are powered on, the bulbs emit both UV-A and UV-B rays, depending on the Level.
The majority of tanning beds emit over 95% UV-A rays and tiny amounts of UV-B rays.
I talk about the type of UV Rays in our post on how is Vitamin D made.
There are 2 main types of Tanning Beds
1. Low-Pressure Tanning Beds (Level 1 and 2)
- Emits more UV-B rays
- Offers a lighter surface level tan
2. High-Pressure Tanning Beds (Levels 3 and Above)
- Emits more UV-A rays
- Offers a darker more penetrative tan
Based on the amount of tanning you want, you can choose a high-pressure or low-pressure tanning bed.
If you want a quick deeper tan, then choose a high-pressure tanning bed.
But, if you’re looking for a gradual, lighter tan, choose a low-pressure one.
Benefits Of Tanning Beds?
With all that said, should you use a tanning bed? Is there any benefit to it?
It sure doesn’t help you get Vitamin D but it does have some benefits.
- Convenience — They are a convenient option for a tan when you please.
- Available 24×7 — They can be available 24×7, whether it’s sunny, raining or snowing.
- Cost-Effective — They’re not too expensive and often cheaper than a vacation to a sunny location to get a natural tan. This of course applies if you don’t already live in a place with lots of sunshine.
- Improved Mood — Exposure to UV light boosts your mood and makes you happier in general. This is why most of us are happy to sunbathe, even in our back gardens.
Risks Of Tanning Beds
That being said, are there any risks in using tanning beds?
It’s something you need to know. Whether you’re a fan of tanning beds or not.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, tanning increases your risks of developing life-threatening skin cancer (melanoma) by up to 75% before age 35.
Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, is a clinical professor of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine says
“I strongly advise against exposure to artificial UV radiation (tanning beds), since the health risks — including skin cancer and premature skin ageing — are significant and potentially life-threatening.”
- Skin Cancer — UV radiation from tanning beds can damage the DNA of skin cells and weaken the body’s immune system. This change in DNA can cause cancerous cells to develop and grow.
- Premature Aging / Photoaging — Although research is ongoing, it was found that UV radiation breaks down the collagen fibres in healthy young skin and causes photoaging. Thus making you look a lot older than you actually are.
- Sunburn — UV rays can cause damage to the skin cells of the outer layer (epidermis). This makes the immune system send more blood to the affected area which increases the redness. Sunburn is found to be linked to skin cancer.
- Dry Skin — UV radiation from tanning beds can cause the moisture in your skin to dry up and leave you with cracked skin, susceptible to damage.
Hopefully, you can see why tanning is dangerous. Even more when done artificially.
So, do you get Vitamin D from tanning beds?
No. It’s not worth the risk. You don’t get any Vitamin D from it and there’s a very high likelihood of life-threatening cancers.
Not worth it, at least for me.
Only Proven Ways To Get Vitamin D
So, we’ve seen that tanning beds don’t do you any good for Vitamin D.
You may ask, so what are my options for Vitamin D when there’s no sun?
There are 3 proven and safe ways to get your daily Vitamin D intake.
Without hesitation, sunlight is the best and most natural way to get your Vitamin D.
It’s how you were naturally made to get it, free and you feel amazing.
But how is vitamin d made by your skin?
When your skin is exposed to sunlight a photochemical reaction takes place.
The sun’s UV-B rays react with 7-Dehydrocholesterol (a chemical compound present in your skin) to produce pre-Vitamin D3.
This undergoes a series of further chemical reactions with your liver and kidneys to produce the final usable form of active Vitamin D3.
Vitamin D Rich Foods
Food is your second best natural source of Vitamin D.
Although there aren’t many plant-based foods that are rich in Vitamin D, there are some animal-based ones.
- Oily Fish (salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, cod liver oil)
- Red meat and liver
- Egg Yolk
- Fortified milk, cereal, juices, oatmeal)
You may wonder, do mushrooms have Vitamin D?
Mushrooms are a good source of Vitamin D, but, we need to understand an important point.
Mushrooms produce Vitamin D2 when exposed to sunlight, which is different to the Vitamin D3 that your body produces.
Even so, they are a very useful Vitamin D source if you’re vegetarian or live a vegan lifestyle.
Vitamin D Supplements
One of the most effective ways to guarantee your Vitamin D is through supplements.
These come in various forms like capsules, tablets, soft gels, powder and yes even sprays.
Vitamin D supplements have long been made from Lanolin, which comes from sheep’s wool.
As the world moves towards sustainability, people have asked the question —is Vitamin D3 from lanolin safe?
Yes, it’s safe and doesn’t harm the sheep but not the most sustainable of practices.
A new Vitamin D alternative — Lichen is also now available.
How much Vitamin D to take depends on your Vitamin D levels.
A good maintenance dose for people who are not deficient is around 2000 IU/day.
How Long Do You Need To Be Out In The Sun To Get Vitamin D?
Studies show you need to spend at least 20–30 minutes per day in the sun during summer 3 times per week to get enough Vitamin D.
The best time is midday from 11 am–3 pm as the UV-B radiation is greatest.
This means you get enough exposure to Vitamin D while minimizing risks of sunburn and skin cancer.
Can You Get Vitamin D Through Clothes?
No, as the UV-B rays from the sun are generally blocked by clothing, although it depends on the fabric.
It’s important to expose at least some skin to the sun like arms, legs and face to maximise the surface area so your skin can produce more Vitamin D.
I hope this article helped answer an important question — do you get Vitamin D from tanning beds?
We learnt how you cannot get Vitamin D from tanning beds due to them using UV-A rays instead of the UV-B rays that your skin uses to make Vitamin D.
You also learnt a bit more about how tanning beds work and the different levels of tanning.
We spoke about the benefits and risks of tanning and how it can be dangerous and play a role in causing melanoma (malignant skin cancer).
Lastly, the only true ways to get Vitamin D are from the sun, Vitamin D rich food like oily fish and supplements.
Your next step,
Join our Vitamin D Fan Club — a private Facebook group.
Here you’ll connect with fellow health lovers and learn all things Vitamin D, all things natural supplements.