Does Tanning Cause Wrinkles?

Let's face it — even though we've known for years that indoor tanning carries some health risks, no one wants to look "pasty" or ghostly pale, especially before going on a sun-drenched vacation. Once the long-awaited summer sun finally appears, we can't seriously be expected to avoid it, right? Since many still associate a sun-kissed bronzed look with attractiveness and good health, we can be excused for seeking the sun like a birthday child waiting for the first bite of cake.

While spending time in natural sunlight does carry some hefty health benefits, including vitamin D production and a serious mood lift, staying in it long enough to get a tan — or worse, a burn — is a sure way to encourage wrinkles and premature aging. If that bronzed glow comes from a tanning bed, the damage is done without even getting the benefit of vitamin D. This is because tanning bed bulbs emit mostly ultraviolet-A light and not the ultraviolet-B light necessary to produce the "sunshine vitamin," per the American Academy of Dermatology.

Using sun protection helps keep skin healthy

The use of tanning beds — even just once — significantly increases the risk of developing skin cancer. "There is no question that ultraviolet exposure is associated with an increased risk of melanoma," Dr. David E. Fisher, chairman of dermatology and director of the melanoma program at Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School, told WebMD.

Paradoxically, although people often get a tan to look more attractive, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, whether indoor or outdoor, actually causes photoaging — an acceleration of the skin's aging process. This can lead to wrinkles and, over time, a leathery appearance and dark spots. The effect is also cumulative, meaning that with every tan or burn, the skin's aging process is accelerated.

As much as we might love the sun-kissed look, our skin doesn't love it, and it will let us know it in no uncertain terms in years to come. That's why dermatologists recommend avoiding indoor tanning beds and using sun-safe practices when outside. You know the drill — wear sunscreen, avoid being in direct sun during the hottest part of the day, and wear protective clothing. Your skin will thank you!