Before you visit a tanning salon, consider the health and safety issues:
- Ask to see your tanning salon’s operation permit, which is issued by the Iowa Department of Public Health. Facilities are inspected by the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health.
- At your first visit, if the operator does not have you read a list of photo-sensitizing drugs and health warnings, ask for them. Make sure you sign a statement that you have read the Iowa Department of Public Health warnings. You should do this every year. If you are taking any medications, especially those on the list, talk to your health care provider so you can avoid skin reactions such as burns, blotches, rashes etc. Even ibuprofen or birth control pills can make your skin extra sensitive to burning.
- Use protective eye wear. State rules say you cannot share eye wear – even if it has been cleaned. Put on the eye wear before turning on the bed. Remove contact lenses to prevent them from sticking.
- Follow exposure schedules according to skin type. Be conservative and use less time rather than take the risk of burning. Don’t ask the operator to change the schedule. Changing the schedule is not only breaking the law, but increases the risk of burning. Turning pink can mean you have burned. Once you notice a burn, it’s too late.
- Only tan at one facility. Tanning at more than one increases the chances of burning. And if there is a problem with burning, it may be difficult to determine if the cause is a particular unit or overexposure.
- Never tan more than once a day. Some tanning beds require longer breaks between tanning sessions
- Report any reactions to the facility operator. They should note the reaction on your file for future reference. If you don’t report it, the operator can’t work with you to correct the problem
To report any complaints against a facility, write to:
The Iowa Department of Public Health, Bureau of Radiological Health
401 SW 7th St. #D
Des Moines, IA 50309-4611
Are tanning beds safe?
Tanning Lamps, Booths, and Beds
Tanning lamps have become a popular method of maintaining a year-round tan, but their effects can be as dangerous as tanning outdoors. Like the sun, the lamps used in tanning booths and beds emit UV radiation. While most lamps emit both UVA and UVB radiation, some emit only UVA.
Some experts argue that artificial tanning is less dangerous because the intensity of light and the time spent tanning are controlled. There is limited evidence to support these claims. On the other hand, sunlamps may be more dangerous than the sun because they can be used at the same intensity every day of the year – something that is unlikely for the sun because of winter weather and cloud cover. They can also be more dangerous because people can expose their entire bodies at each session, which would be difficult to do outdoors.
Using Tanning Lamps, Booths, or Beds
If you use indoor tanning equipment, follow these steps to reduce the dangers of UV exposure.
- Be sure to wear appropriate protective eye wear, making sure they fit snugly and are not cracked.
- Start slowly and use short exposure times to build up a tan over time.
- DON’T use the maximum exposure time the first time you tan because you could get burned, and burns are thought to be related to melanoma.
- Follow manufacturer-recommended exposure times for your skin type. Check the label for exposure times.
- Stick to your time limit.
- After a tan is developed, tan no more than once a week. Depending on your skin type, you may even be able to maintain your tan with one exposure every 2-3 weeks.
- Because sunburns take 6 to 48 hours to develop, you may not realize your skin is burned until it is too late.
- FDA has a radiation safety performance standard for sunlamp products. All sunlamp products must have a warning label, an accurate timer, an emergency stop control, and include an exposure schedule and protective eye wear.
You should NOT use a tanning bed or lamp if:
- You sunburn easily and do not tan. Skin that does not tan in the sun will probably not tan under a sunlamp.
- You have a family history of melanoma.
- You get frequent cold sores. UV radiation may cause them to appear more frequently due to immune system suppression.
- You are taking medicines that can make you more sensitive to UV rays. Check with your doctor or pharmacist.