Positive (perceived beneficial) effects of sunbeds:
Helps some skin conditions:
UV is used in the treatment of skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis; this is a condition where the skin sheds its cells too quickly and develops itchy, scaly patches, and some lymphoid malignancies. Exposure to UV slows the growth of the skin cells and relieves the symptoms. However these treatments should only be carried out under medical supervision in clinical conditions.
Research suggests that UV light stimulates the pineal gland in the brain to produce certain chemicals called ‘tryptamines’. These chemicals improve our mood.
The most popular reason for using sunbeds seems to be to improve appearance, including looking healthy, and looking better, thus feeling more confident (Amir, et al, 2000). A Swedish study revealed that usage was greater in young people who were least satisfied with their body image (Brandberg et al, 1998). Thus it can be concluded that the psychological benefits associated with sunbeds are that the persons appearance has improved, although it is clear that the psychological factors which contribute to the use of a sunbed are complex.
Many people believe that a sunbed acquired tan prior to a holiday will protect them from the sun, as well as improve their appearance. However the level of protection afforded by a sun bed tan, or base tan as it is commonly called, is minimal.
Vitamin D synthesis:
UV is needed by our bodies to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D helps strengthen bones, muscles and the body’s immune system. It may also lower the risk of getting some kinds of cancers such as colon cancer
A 10 minute session on a sunbed yields 2,000 – 4,000 international units (equivalent to 4-8 servings of fatty fish and four pill supplements). It has been suggested that the use of sunbeds may be a useful means of correcting low-level vitamin D deficiency (Grant and Holick, 2005). The primary emission from sunbeds is UVA, so the use of sunbeds to induce vitamin D synthesis is dependent on UVB emissions. A recent study by Thieden et al (2008) vitamin D levels increased in people who used a sunbed which emitted 0.5% and 1.4% UVB, however, after a few sessions a plateau was reached and later sessions hardly contributed to the effect.
In conclusion the perceived benefits of sunbeds are largely cosmetic and psychological.
Sunbeds offer little protection against sun-burn.
Sunbeds are not recommended for increasing vitamin D synthesis, and members of the public who suffer from vitamin D deficiency due to being institutionalized, housebound, elderly, hospitalized, cover their skin for cultural/religious reasons etc. should seek medical advice.