Tanning Myths: How to Combat Them

Now that you have learned the complex effects of ultraviolet light on health, you can understand why people sometimes create myths, or half-truths, about health and tanning; they simply don't understand indoor tanning or the tanning process. The best defense against health myths about indoor tanning is the education of fellow employees and clients. Let's take a look at three of the most common myths, as well as what makes them false. You may want to read this section over several rimes to familiarize yourself with the myths and the factual explanations you can use to combat them.

"Indoor tanning units work like big microwave ovens that can bake the body tissues and fry the skin." One popular legend in many u.s. cities today is that a young woman who wanted a tan for special occasion died after she went on a tanning salon rampage. Before she died, her body smelled sickly sweet, which her doctor explained was the odor of her charred body tissues. But you know that ultraviolet light waves cannot penetrate so deeply into the skin that affect the body tissues, although they may penetrate eyelids to damage eyes. Explain to your clients that ultraviolet light waves are not the same as X-rays or heat rays and, therefore, have different effects on the body. Tell them that overexposure would result in sunburn, not body organs. Take people on tours through your salon and describe how the equipment and lamps work.

You also can use cool logic: The u.s. government is the low on funds these days, but it certainly couldn't overlook an industry that could possibly injure people so severely. If the legends of the roasted tanner were based on truth rather than fiction, the government would have put a padlock on all tanning facilities years ago by regulating the tanning industry. The government has helped to dispel myths like the legend of the roasted tanner, and also has helped established indoor tanning as a viable, professional U.S. industry.

"Ultraviolet light causes skin cancer, including malignant melanoma-the deadliest of them all." As previously mentioned, the two most common types of skin cancer, basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinomas, are directly related to ultraviolet light overexposure and can recur after treatment. But the link between ultraviolet light and melanoma is mysterious, as people who work outdoors actually get fewer melanomas than those who work inside. Educate clients about the increased risks of skin cancer in people who experience severe, blistering sunburns as children. Urge them to use sun screens when traveling to sunny climates. Help them prevent sunburn-which is probably the biggest culprit. Explain how indoor tanning equipment uses a carefully researched combination of UV A and UVB, and administers the light in a controlled atmosphere. This combination, we feel, may decrease the risks for skin damage in the long run. However, industry experts recommend that you discourage people who have been treated for skin cancers from tanning without medical approval.

"People can catch diseases if they tan nude." People cannot contract diseases from properly sanitized, well-maintained tanning beds or from the clean floors of tanning booths. Disease specialists have said that no evidence exists to prove that sanitized tanning units have spread diseases, nor can they spread venereal diseases or AIDS, both of which require intimate contact to get. The potential danger of tanning nude is ultraviolet overexposure-such as sun burn of sensitive body parts that normally are not exposed to ultraviolet radiation. For example, skin on the armpits, back of legs, and buttocks can suffer severe erythema using the same light intensity that only tans the rest of your body.

Suggest that your clients gradually expose their sensitive body areas to ultraviolet light, and that they cover them halfway through tanning sessions for the first three or four times they tan nude. Rashes or itches occurring on the body after ultraviolet light exposure are not an indication of skin disease, but of dry skin or a photosensitive reaction. They often are caused by a combination of heat from the tanning lamps (sometimes perspiration caused by the heat can be the source of the problem), a lack of sufficient melanin in the skin being tanned and ultraviolet light. Both irritations usually subside within several days after tanning has stopped.

White spots or skin striping also are not signs of skin disease. White spots most often occur when oxygen is prevented from circulating in an area of the skin, such as the elbows, usually while clients lie in tanning beds. Skin striping or zebra striping, results from uneven tanning during first exposures to ultraviolet light. Both problems can be solved i£ during subsequent tanning sessions, clients periodically reposition their bodies to provide maximum access to the affected areas.

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