An important question for teens and parents of teens who enjoy tanning: Did you know that teenagers might soon be banned from using indoor tanning beds? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering a ban on access to salon tanning beds, or at least restricting that access, for anyone under age 18. In some states, teenagers would be allowed to make a tanning appointment only with parental consent.

An FDA advisory panel recently recommended the restrictions based on a World Health Organization (WHO) report claiming that people who use tanning beds at a young age are at an increased risk for developing deadly skin cancer later in life. Furthermore, dermatologists have been noticing a sharp increase in the incidence of cancer among women in their teens and early twenties.

Skin care specialists have been warning the public for years about the dangers of tanning beds. The risks are due mainly to the high concentration of ultraviolet light, which is linked to at least three forms of skin cancer. Often the cancer can be removed from the skin, but 2,000 people still die annually, according to the American Cancer Society. Aside from the direct damage to one's skin, tanning customers also can experience eye damage from wearing eye goggles improperly or not at all while using salon tanning beds.

What are the alternatives to indoor tanning beds?

One popular method of bronzing is the spray tan. There are pros and cons to spray tanning in a salon.

  • You do not have to worry about exposure to ultraviolet light, which burns your skin and can ultimately lead to skin cancer.
  • Spray tanning is just as convenient as any other salon service for which you make an appointment.

  • There is debate about the safety of exposure to dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the active ingredient in salon spray-on tans. Salons should ensure proper ventilation of the tanning area in order to prevent inhalation of potentially harmful chemicals. Protective eye goggles and/or nose plugs should be worn as well.
  • Some people experience skin irritation or an allergic reaction to preservatives in the DHA, requiring treatment with an ointment or cream.
  • Spray tans provide no SPF protection, so you still need to use a sunscreen when outdoors to avoid sunburn.

A second alternative is a self-tanner in the form of a lotion or pill.

  • You can avoid paying tanning salon prices by using a self-tanner at home. Lotions and pills cost less than salon treatments and the results often last longer than with a spray tan.
  • Many lotions are moisturizers first and tanning agents second. They nourish the skin while providing a gradual, even tan. Tinted moisturizers, used primarily on your face, give your skin a subtle glow and wash off whenever you want. Many self-tanning lotions also contain sunscreen for added protection.

  • Bronzers and other creams can be messy, resulting in stained clothing or a streaky appearance on the skin if not applied evenly.
  • Some medical experts do not recommend the use of pills, primarily because they contain additives that can turn your skin more orange than tan. More serious concerns that have been cited are potential liver damage and eye problems.

As a young person, you might not be thinking about the health consequences of tanning right now. This information is intended to provide you with an introduction to tanning bed alternatives. Start to protect your health by learning about safer tanning practices that do not require the use of indoor tanning beds. You can still achieve a warm bronzed look by choosing other tanning methods.