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Indoor tanning (also known as sunbed) involves using a device that emits ultraviolet radiation to produce a cosmetic tan.[a] Typically found in tanning salons, gyms, spas, hotels, and sporting facilities, and less often in private residences, the most common device is a horizontal tanning bed, also known as a sunbed or solarium. Vertical devices are known as tanning booths or stand-up sunbeds.

First introduced in the 1920s, indoor tanning became popular with white people in the Western world, particularly in Scandinavia, in the late 1970s.[2] The practice finds a cultural parallel in skin whitening in Asian countries, and both support multibillion-dollar industries.[3] Most indoor tanners are women, 16–25 years old, who want to improve their appearance or mood, acquire a pre-holiday tan, or treat a skin condition.[4]

Across Australia, Canada, Northern Europe and the United States, 18.2% of adults, 45.2% of university students, and 22% of adolescents had tanned indoors in the previous year, according to studies in 2007–2012.[b] As of 2010 the indoor-tanning industry employed 160,000 in the United States, where 10–30 million tanners[c] visit 25,000 indoor facilities annually.[2] In the United Kingdom, 5,350 tanning salons were in operation in 2009.[7] From 1997 several countries and US states banned under-18s from indoor tanning.[8] The commercial use of tanning beds was banned entirely in Brazil in 2009 and Australia in 2015.[9] As of 1 January 2017, thirteen U.S. states and one territory have banned under-18s from using them, and at least 42 states and the District of Columbia have imposed regulations, such as requiring parental consent.[10]

Indoor tanning is a source of UV radiation, which is known to cause skin cancer, including melanoma[11][12][13] and skin aging,[14] and is associated with sunburn, photodrug reactions, infections, weakening of the immune system, and damage to the eyes, including cataracts, photokeratitis (snow blindness) and eye cancer.[15][16][17] Injuries caused by tanning devices lead to over 3,000 emergency-room cases a year in the United States alone.[d] Physicians may use or recommend tanning devices to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, but the World Health Organization does not recommend their use for cosmetic purposes.[19][20] The WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer includes tanning devices, along with ultraviolet radiation from the sun, in its list of group 1 carcinogens.[17] Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health found evidence of addiction to tanning in a 2017 paper.[21]

Sunlamp in the Netherlands, 1930

In 1890 the Danish physician Niels Ryberg Finsen developed a carbon arc lamp ("Finsen's light" or a "Finsen lamp") that produced ultraviolet radiation for use in skin therapy, including to treat lupus vulgaris.[27] He won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work.[28][29]

Until the late 19th century in Europe and the United States, pale skin was a symbol of high social class among white people. Victorian women would carry parasols and wear wide-brimmed hats and gloves; their homes featured heavy curtains that kept out the sun. But as the working classes moved from country work to city factories, and to crowded, dark, unsanitary homes, pale skin became increasingly associated with poverty and ill health.[30] In 1923 Coco Chanel returned from a holiday in Cannes with a tan, later telling Vogue magazine: "A golden tan is the index of chic!" Tanned skin had become a fashion accessory.[31][32][33]

In parallel physicians began advising their patients on the benefits of the "sun cure", citing its antiseptic properties. Sunshine was promoted as a treatment for depression, diabetes, constipation, pneumonia, high and low blood pressure, and many other ailments.[34] Home-tanning equipment was introduced in the 1920s in the form of "sunlamps" or "health lamps", UV lamps that emitted a large percentage of UVB, leading to burns.[35] Friedrich Wolff, a German scientist, began using UV light on athletes, and developed beds that emitted 95% UVA and 5% UVB, which reduced the likelihood of burning. The world's first tanning salon opened in 1977 in Berlin,[36][37] followed by tanning salons in Europe and North America in the late 1970s.[38] In 1978 Wolff's devices began selling in the United States, and the indoor tanning industry was born.[39][40]

Devices

Lamps[24][25] Classified by the WHO as a group 1 carcinogen,[26] UVR has "complex and mixed effects on human health". While it causes skin cancer and other damage, including wrinkles, it also triggers the synthesis of vitamin D and endorphins in the skin.[23]

In 1890 the Danish physician Niels Ryberg Finsen developed a carbon arc lamp ("Finsen's light" or a "Finsen lamp") that produced ultraviolet radiation for use in skin therapy, including to treat lupus vulgaris.[27] He won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work.[28][29]

Until the late 19th century in Europe and the United States, pale skin was a symbol of high social class among white people. Victorian women would carry parasols and wear wide-brimmed hats and gloves; their homes featured heavy curtains that kept out the sun. But as the working classes moved from country work to city factories, and to crowded, dark, unsanitary homes, pale skin became increasingly associated with poverty and ill health.[30] In 1923 Coco Chanel returned from a holiday in Cannes with a tan, later telling Vogue magazine: "A golden tan is the index of chic!" Tanned skin had become a fashion accessory.Victorian women would carry parasols and wear wide-brimmed hats and gloves; their homes featured heavy curtains that kept out the sun. But as the working classes moved from country work to city factories, and to crowded, dark, unsanitary homes, pale skin became increasingly associated with poverty and ill health.[30] In 1923 Coco Chanel returned from a holiday in Cannes with a tan, later telling Vogue magazine: "A golden tan is the index of chic!" Tanned skin had become a fashion accessory.[31][32][33]

In parallel physicians began advising their patients on the benefits of the "sun cure", citing its antiseptic properties. Sunshine was promoted as a treatment for depression, diabetes, constipation, pneumonia, high and low blood pressure, and many other ailments.[34] Home-tanning equipment was introduced in the 1920s in the form of "sunlamps" or "health lamps", UV lamps that emitted a large percentage of UVB, leading to burns.[35] Friedrich Wolff, a German scientist, began using UV light on athletes, and developed beds that emitted 95% UVA and 5% UVB, which reduced the likelihood of burning. The world's first tanning salon opened in 1977 in Berlin,[36][37] followed by tanning salons in Europe and North America in the late 1970s.[38] In 1978 Wolff's devices began selling in the United States, and the indoor tanning industry was born.[39][40]

Tanning lamps, also known as tanning bulbs or tanning tubes, produce the ultraviolet light in tanning devices. The performance (or output) varies widely between brands and styles. Most are low-pressure fluorescent tubes, but high-pressure bulbs also exist. The electronics systems and number of lamps affect performance, but to a lesser degree than the lamp itself. Tanning lamps are regulated separately from tanning beds in most countries, as they are the consumable portion of the system.

Beds