Sunbeds (indoor tanning)

Tanning and sunbeds


Tanning is the process whereby skin colour is darkened or ‘tanned’. A tan, whether from time spent on a beach, on a sunbed, or through incidental exposure, is harmful and dangerous.

Tans are caused by harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning lamps and, if you have one, it means the DNA within your skin has been damaged. The cumulative damage caused by UV radiation can lead to premature skin aging (including wrinkles, lax skin, brown spots), as well as skin cancer.

A sun tan is healthy. A tan results from your body defending itself against further damage from UV radiation.
A tan protects you from the sun. A dark tan on white skin only offers an SPF of about 4.
You can’t get sunburnt on a cloudy day. Up to 80% of solar UV radiation can penetrate light cloud cover. Haze in the atmosphere can even increase UV radiation exposure.
You can’t get sunburnt while in the water. Water offers only minimal protection from UV radiation, and reflections from water can enhance your UV radiation exposure.
UV radiation during the winter is not dangerous. UV radiation is generally lower during the winter months, but snow reflection can double your overall exposure, especially at high altitude.
Sunscreens protect me so I can sunbathe much longer. Sunscreens are not intended to increase sun exposure time but to increase protection during unavoidable exposure. The protection they afford depends critically on their correct application.
If you take regular breaks during sunbathing you won’t get sunburnt. UV radiation exposure is cumulative during the day.
If you don’t feel the hot rays of the sun you won’t get sunburnt. Sunburn is caused by UV radiation which cannot be felt. Most of the heating is caused by the sun’s visible and infrared radiation and not by UV radiation.


The use of sunbeds should be completely avoided.  In fact, people who use indoor ultraviolet (UV) sunbeds are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never used them. The UV rays from sunbeds can also damage the DNA in your skin cells, and over time this damage can build up to cause skin cancer.

Sunbeds can sometimes be marketed as a controlled way of getting a safer tan. In reality, sunbeds are no safer than exposure to the sun itself, and studies have shown they provide no positive health benefits.

Healthcare professionals in many countries are trying to legislate against the use of sunbeds, and several European countries have already banned their use by people under the age of 18.


Text in collaboration with EUROMELANOMA.

The EU and the current state of play

Following a request from the European Commission, the Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks reviewed recent evidence to update the 2006 Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products on the Biological effects of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) relevant to health, with particular reference to sunbeds for cosmetic purposes. 

The review led to a preliminary opinion, which was published early in 2016 and was made available for a public consultation.

The EADV in collaboration with EUROMELANOMA, the European Association of Dermato-Oncology and the European Dermatology Forum, submitted a joint statement/comment to the public consultation fully supporting the claims of the preliminary opinion.

On 30 November 2016, SCHEER, taking into cosnideration the submitted comments published its final opinion. The final opinion maintains the original claims that sunbeds are unsafe, they cause skin cancer and should be avoided. 

The EADV calls the European Commission to act, enforce stricter regulations to the use of sunbeds and force the indoor tanning industry to admit that their product is unsafe and causes skin cancer.

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