Which would you rather battle: depression, or cancer? Because if you listen to the claims of tanning salons across America during these deepest, darkest days of winter, you don’t have to choose–you can treat one without putting yourself at risk of the other. Yup, even after years of research on the topic, artificial tanning salons are still advertising their product’s ability to safely fight seasonal depression, but don’t be fooled. Tanning is still a risky–and ineffective–method of treating depression, no matter what the tanning industry would have you think.
By this point, most everyone has agreed that Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D., the mood disorder which is triggered by changing seasons, is a fairly common, but still serious ailment that impacts millions of Americans. And, as a result, everyone seems to be trying to get their hand in the S.A.D.-treating cookie jar. That can make it difficult to sort out which claims about treatment are true, and which are junk science–which is probably why otherwise smart women are still continuing to seek out tanning as a mood elevation and self-esteem booster, and why so many tanning salons still feel OK making claims that are pretty much baseless.
Many experts have decried claims by tanning beds that they are a safe, efficient way to treat S.A.D. and other seasonal depression–but, as the tanning industry is quick to point out, most of them are experts in light therapy or who work with the Skin Cancer Foundation, both of which have a vested interest in whittling down the public’s opinion of tanning beds. However, light therapy boxes , which they recommend for treatment of depression, haven’t been shown–by the tanning industry or research studies–to have any additional health risks that tanning has, like cancer or premature aging of skin cells. So, at worst, they’re selling you a piece of equipment that can help you…which is a far cry from the alternative.
The alternative, of course, is those who stand to profit from statements that tanning is safe, despite known dangers. Tanning Truth, for example, is a pro-tanning “informational” website that’s pretty clearly working to assuage fears about the safety of hitting the bed. And according to their site, tanning is basically exactly the same as getting some much-needed sunlight, and can be used to fight S.A.D, as well as other ailments, like those stemming from vitamin D deficiency. But the difference is this: Tanning Truth and the rest of the information paid for by the tanning industry can only quote doctors–they can’t cite actual research. Which is the same way that cigarette manufacturers managed to keep selling smokes, even long after the risk of lung cancer was proven.
It’s true that time spent lying in the warm, relaxing environment of a tanning bed does come with small benefits, but the fact is, no matter what those with personal or financial interests in mind, unbiased research still points to the fact that tanning beds don’t really treat depression as well as light boxes, and that their brand of powerful, full-body ultraviolet light is stil bad news for your skin. Regardless of the industry’s claims, artificial tanning is more dangerous than it is helpful–and it’s not the only way to lift winter depression.
You don’t have to choose between cancer and depression. Light therapy, eating healthy and smart foods, exercising, and getting outside when there is sunlight present are all safer, more effective ways to shake off winter S.A.D.ness, which come with far fewer health risks than tanning salons. Regardless of what the tanning industry continues to claim, there’s just no research to prove what they’d like you to think. Tanning is an ineffective method of treating S.A.D., and can still, despite claims by salons, lead to skin cancer. Don’t let them convince you otherwise.