Tuesday With Martha

Dear Martha, I am going to Mexico over break and I don’t want to burn so I was thinking about going to a tanning salon. My friend told me that I should go to one of the newer standing booths because they don’t cause cancer like the tanning beds. Is this true? Signed, Chica BlancaDear Chica,Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen and a hat. If you haven’t been down by the equator before you have no idea how fierce that sun is and no time in a tanning booth can prepare your skin for that. A frequent sight on Day 1 of vacation is a sea of seared bodies on stretches of lounge chairs. I prefer to feel good on Day 2 and the rest of the trip. Back to your question re: tanning booth vs. tanning bed. The rays are the same. They can cause skin damage and skin cancer standing up just as easily as lying down. Their promoted benefits are a more even tan-I can’t speak to that. The truth is that tanning salons can fit more booths into a smaller area thereby increasing the number of customers served. Yes, I am a cynic. Contrary to popular belief, prevacation tanning does not protect you. SPF or Sun Protection Factor is an estimate of how much longer an individual who uses a ‘method’ (sun screen, certain clothing, tanning booths) can stay in the sun before they burn. So if you normally burn in 10 min, with a sunscreen with an SPF of 15, you will burn in 15 x 10 minutes or 2 ? hours. Note that this is how long it takes to burn, not tan and you will burn faster in Mexico than in Vermont and from 10 am- 2 pm. In a study reported by P Autier, prevacation tanning in natural sunlight confers a protection equivalent to an SPF of 3 or less. Prevacation salon tanning doesn’t even give you that. If you have a fair complexion or are using certain medications including antibiotics and acne medications you may be more susceptible to sunburn. Tanning in a salon is no safer than the sun. In fact, some tanning facilities are promoting beds/booths that emit higher levels of UVA and UVB in less time. So, save your money, spend it on a yummy feeling sun screen with an SPF of 30 or more, buy a funky hat and stay out of the mid day sun. Don’t forget to bring your CHWB clinician with you, she could use a vacation. Later, Martha