Tanning beds are still a go-to option for many to kick off a warm weather vacation or season. Because what better way to get a really good base than to settle into that coffin-like bed and soak in those rays, wearing nothing but your birthday suit and nifty little goggles, and catching a little herpes. Wait, what?
According to the Mayo Clinic’s associate professor of dermatology, Dawn Marie Davies, using a tanning bed may increase your risk of catching genital herpes. Sure. We’ll let that sink in.
The sexually transmitted infection is generally spread via direct skin-to-skin contact, but it can live outside the body for an extended period of time. And while it’s treatable, genital herpes is incurable.
“I’ve seen acquired bacterial infections, warts, and herpes infections from tanning beds,” she told Yahoo. “Ultraviolet light can theoretically kill germs, but it’s not enough to kill germs on the tanning bed.”
Dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Joel Schlessinger concurred, telling us, “Various bacteria can survive on tanning beds, including herpes, staph, E. coli and human papilloma virus. As the viruses are continually exposed to the heat and light throughout the day, they begin building a resistance to it.”
Um, gross. But there’s more.
He adds: “Sweat provides an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and fungi and viruses are easily passed from person to person through tanning beds. The herpes virus cannot usually live outside of humans for more than a short amount of time. However, the virus thrives under warm, moist conditions like those found in tanning beds and it can live up to several hours in these environments.”
But herpes is just a nasty drop in the slimy bucket.
Obviously, skin cancer is the most pressing danger when it comes to using tanning beds. The lamps give off 10 to 15 times more radiation than the sun, Schelssinger says, and some use newer bulbs that can be even more deadly. He also believes indoor tanning can be even more dangerous than lounging under the actual sun because you can do it at any time and frequent visits don’t give the skin a chance to recuperate.
There are also common injuries such as burns to skin and eyes, as well as inflamed corneas and foreign objects embedded in the eye. Schlessinger adds that on rare occasions, people have also fainted or lost consciousness, leading to broken bones and head injuries. And on a superficial level, tanning bed use can also lead to premature signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots.
So if the skin cancer, body burns and eye injuries weren’t enough to keep you out of the tanning bed, the risk of contracting an incurable STD should be the clincher.
The moral of the story? Maybe you should consider a DIY bronzer instead.