Solarium facts and myths

The sun is life. Every day, we need sunlight so that various processes related to metabolism could proceed properly in our bodies. There is also a common opinion that the tan adorns. It covers minor skin defects, e.g. broken capillaries. It makes our figure look slimmer and the skin looks more healthy. It is no wonder that solariums are becoming more and more popular.

Year 1975 is assumed to be the date of the first solarium, when Friedrich Wolff produced the first UV fluorescent lamp and observed that the UVB rays synthesize vitamin D3 and activate the pigment production process. The lamps were then placed under an acrylic coating that transmitted ultraviolet rays, and thus the first device called the tanning bed was created. Although Wolff's goal was not tanning, but treatment with ultraviolet rays of skin diseases, the fact that the "artificial sun" not only healed, but also gave a beautiful tan caused that a new service was created. It successfully works to this day. However, due to the fact that about 10% of the population of Europe and North America massively uses sunbeds, in 2009 the World Health Organization (WHO) developed recommendations for the use of these devices, among which contraindications, among others, the age under 18. In addition, 0.3 W / m2 was introduced as a standard for all tanning equipment.

From the wide spectrum of radiation emitted by the Sun on the human body, it mainly interacts with ultraviolet radiation: UVB from 290 to 320 nm, UVA from 320 to 400 nm, visible light from 400 to 780 nm and infrared from 780 to 2000 nm. UVC radiation is the radiation with the shortest wavelength, i.e. up to 290 nm, and is almost completely absorbed by the ozone layer of the atmosphere. This radiation has the highest energy, is strongly erythematous, irritates the conjunctiva and has toxic effects on cells, which is bactericidal. The most common sources are xenon or mercury lamps without proper filters. UVB radiation is responsible for the production of vitamin D, but also for sunburn and the effect of late tanning. It is also sent by artificial light sources. It does not pass through window glass, but it reaches through quartz glass and water, which explains the risk of sunburn during bathing. UVA radiation causes both redness and dimming of the skin (immediate tan effect). It is responsible for the sun's aging of the skin and for the majority of light-induced drug reactions. UVA radiation penetrates through window glass, so it can cause a person’s reaction inside the car or at home. The intensity of UV radiation depends on the latitude, the angle of incidence of sunlight, altitude, radiation reflected from water, snow, clouds, and environmental pollution.

Differences between the solarium and the natural sun are diverse, but they do not affect the impact. The solarium copies the sun's spectrum of light and causes similar tanning reactions in the skin. The newest solariums use two types of ultraviolet radiation: UVA and UVB. UVA radiation has been used for years. They were considered to be completely safe, because it does not cause burns. Recently, however, experts are alarming that frequent exposure may be harmful. This radiation penetrates deeply into the skin, causing damage to the net of collagen fibrils and small blood vessels, thus accelerating its aging. UVA radiation does not give a permanent tan, it only darkens the pigment that is already in the epidermis. This so-called direct pigmentation disappears after a dozen or so hours. Many solaria in Poland are still equipped with lamps emitting mainly UVA radiation. Our skin becomes brown in them, but we are satisfied with the color of the skin for a short time. We run to the solarium two or three times a week, which is already a dangerous dose. UVB radiation supports the proliferation of melanocytes: skin cells that produce a new pigment. Thanks to it, we achieve a permanent tan, but not immediately visible. This radiation gives us vigor, causes the body to produce vitamin D3, which protects against rickets, osteoporosis and cancer. However, UVB rays can cause skin burns if we stay under their influence for too long. The percentage of UVB lamps for solariums ranges from 0.7-3.3%.
The source of radiation in the solarium are mercury gas lamps. Light is created in gas, not by the so-called termoemission as for the filament of the filament lamp. Depending on the combination of the gas contained, its pressure and the electrical power consumed, different types of lamps are distinguished.
Lamps for tanning can be divided into:

1) Low pressure (fluorescent lamps). Low pressure lamps, the division of which is based on the rated power.

The most popular lamps:

  • 80 W and 100 W lamps (lengths 150 cm and 180 cm). 80 W lamps were standard equipment for the first tanning devices produced in the early 1980s. 100 W lamps have for a long time fulfilled the role of the most powerful lamps on the market. The hunger for power was so great that producers, chasing the expectations of an increasingly demanding customer who wanted to shorten the tanning time at all costs, quickly produced lamps with more power.
  • 140 W and 160 W lamps (with lengths of 150 cm and 180 cm). The 140 W lamp, called the TURBO lamp (the name was supposed to emphasize the increased power), was produced in parallel with the 160 W lamp, a typical TURBO class representative. Due to its length, the 140 W lamp was used in the upper parts of the devices together with a halogen face enhancer. The 160 W lamp is the most common lamp to this day.
  • Lamps 120 W and 180 W (length 200 cm). These lamps are most often used in vertical solariums and in devices without high-pressure facial tanners. 180 W lamp was created mainly for standing stalls, which equipped with 160 W lamps were not suitable for tanning tall people.

Less common types of lamp types include:

  • Lamps less than 25 W. These are the smallest and weakest low-pressure lamps, so-called energy-saving lamps. They are almost unknown on our market. Devices imported from the United States and some of Italian production may have such lamps in the part of the shoulder and shoulder tanner. The power of such lamps can be from 12 to 18 W. We do not see them in our domestic warehouses.
  • 25 W lamps - spaghetti. It is the smallest representative of fluorescent lamps. Its electrical power is 25 W, and its lifetime was only 300 to 400 hours until recently. Due to this fact and relatively high price when compared to 100- and 160-watt lamps, the owners of solariums were reluctant to use them in Poland. For the last two years, we've come across lamps with extended lifetime, which was probably achieved by extending the electrode. Lamps of this type are used by most manufacturers for colloquially called low-pressure devices. In these devices there are no halogen lamps and the tan obtained in them is not visible immediately after leaving the cabin, but appears after a few or even several hours after tanning. In Germany, devices based on a mixture of standard lamps and spaghetti are often called tifbreuner. In free translation, devices of deep tanning or deeply tanning. Today's wide range of lamps allows, partly, the resignation of such solutions, and the clients demanding quick, immediately visible effects discourage owners from investing in such devices. In addition, they are more expensive to operate due to the very large number of lamps.
  • 40 W lamps. This is a short fluorescent lamp with a cross-section of a normal lamp designed for niche tanning appliances, in which it was used as a reinforcement of the face or calves and thighs or arms. The most well-known device using 40 W technique was very well tanning UWE Magnum Power. This lamp could also be found in Italian production equipment.
  • 60W lamps. Over time, it was thought about taller people and eliminating the weakness of standing solariums, namely low effectiveness in tanning the calves and the feet.
  • 200W lamps. Z czasem pomyślano o ludziach wyższych oraz o wyeliminowaniu słabego punktu kabin stojących, a mianowicie małej skuteczności w opalaniu łydek oraz samych stóp.
  • Lamps 220 W. A lamp with a length of 2 meters with increased power parameters. You can call it SUPERTURBO.

High-pressure lamps (so-called halogens). Halogen lamps are most often used in this part of the solarium, which is responsible for tanning the face and are much stronger, i.e. they emit a higher dose of UV radiation. High-pressure lamps are used with special filters responsible for filtering harmful UV-C rays and for creating a strictly defined band transmitting as many UV-A rays as possible, sometimes UV-B.

So you can meet devices called ordinary tanning beds or TURBO on the market. The TURBO solarium is, however, a marketing name that reflects the power of the device. This term was invented to distinguish stronger devices from the weaker ones, but over time it lost its importance. The power of the device depends on its design, the tanning lamps used in it, on how long they have been working and at what distance from the body they are, that is on many factors. Sometimes, the name TURBO is used for solariums with 160 W lamps, but in reality it does not mean anything specific. It should be remembered that the radiation dose is counted in the tanning bed, not the type or name of the device.
Most tanning appliances are equipped with both types of lamps. Despite the fact that people are looking for the most powerful lamps, hoping for better results, it is safer and more efficient to sunbathe on the weaker lamps. In addition, they should contain a balanced amount of UVA and UVB rays similar to the sun on the beach. It is also worth knowing that new lamps are very uneven and are a frequent cause of burns. The "new lamps" notice should be treated in the tanning salon, as the warnings and not as an advertisement. The tanning on new lamps is not at all more effective, quite the opposite t is dangerous. The feeling of hot and over-standard power is related to the time of the lamp's formatting, which, depending on the type of lamp and its storage methods, can be up to several or even several hours. If someone cares about effective and safe tanning, he should avoid new lamps. Even if they are 10% more powerful, we gain only one minute on a scale of 10 minutes and we risk a local burn caused by uneven distribution of mercury oxide in the lamp during the first 80 hours of its operation.
In addition, solar devices are divided into vertical (standing cabins) and lying (beds). The lying device differs from the standing one in the intensity of the lamp's power and the filters on the face. Standing solariums usually do not have them, and their power is 180 W for the whole body, where in lying 160 W per body, and 520 W for the face with protective filters, often acting against photoageing of the skin. Of course, face lamps can be turned off completely. Vertical solariums are typical low-pressure devices. They tan a little differently because also the face is tanned using low pressure lamps, with a higher presence of UVB radiation which sometimes causes a slight redness. This effect is not caused by high-pressure tanners in classic tanning beds. Proponents of tubs are people who prefer short tanning times, as well as less hygiene. The body does not have any contact with the acrylic plate in the capsules. The fact is that the tubes tan more evenly due to the same distance of the body from the lamps.
The lamp's working time is also very important. Solar lamps wear out and after some time they need to be replaced because they no longer meet safety standards (old lamps start to emit a dangerous UV spectrum). If the owner does not care, the risk of skin burns increases. Unfortunately, devices that have been withdrawn from the Western market are often sent to Poland as unfit for further use. The maximum lamp operating time is 800 hours.In order to ensure a safe, long-lasting, healthy tan in the tanning bed, specialists work on the optimal combination of UVA and UVB rays as well as on the recipes of cosmetics that prepare the skin for sunbathing and care for it after tanning in the solarium. Ordinary creams and lotions are not suitable for this. They can cause redness, swelling of the skin or discoloration. You cannot use preparations containing citrus essential oils, bergamot oil, St. John's wort, fruit acids or retinol (acid A). in the tanning salon we should not use sunscreen, intended for sunbathing. This does not apply to lips, which should be smeared with a colorless, vaseline lipstick with a filter. Cosmetics used immediately before tanning in a tanning salon reduce skin sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation and accelerate the production of pigment. Applying them, we get the effect of a beautiful tan in a shorter time. Their most important ingredient is tyrosine, a substance found in our body, necessary to produce pigment. Delivered from the outside it accelerates this process. The regenerating ingredients are a substance called ATP, supporting the formation of new epidermal cells, and collagen moisturizing the skin. Vitamin B2, on the other hand, diminishes the pigment produced. Vitamin E and beta-carotene neutralize free radicals that are formed in the skin in excess when exposed to ultraviolet rays. After tanning, we use a moisturizing lotion that will preserve the tan. The products offered are in the form of milks, lotions or foams in the aerosol. Hit of the last years are ampoules with condensed ingredients that nourish and accelerate the browning of the skin.
The safe dose of ultraviolet radiation is different for each of us. It depends on the type of skin and how long our body has been in contact with the sun (chart). In result of the irradiation of the skin by ultraviolet rays, it develops a brown discoloration, called pigmentation. It depends on the accumulation of a dye, referred to as melanin, or the dose of ultraviolet rays per unit area of skin and wavelength. It has been found that the highest tanning efficiency has radiation with a wavelength from 290 to 330 nm. The pigment is formed in cells called melanoblasts. The dye travels to the surface layers of the epidermis and changes the color of the skin. UVB radiation also causes thickening of the skin, which provides additional protection against sunburn.
Celtic type I
  • blond or red hair
  • light blue, gray or green eyes
  • very light skin, often covered with freckles, very sensitive, the type also belong those affected by vitiligo, without pigment in the skin (albino)
  • very high risk of burns
  • no sunbathing in the solarium
  • not recommended sunbathing
  • the necessary use of protective cosmetics with the highest possible factor
Type II European
  • light to dark blond to pale brown hair
  • blue, gray or green eyes
  • light skin, sometimes with freckles, sensitive, with the possibility of discoloration and birthmarks
  • high risk of burns
  • the skin is difficult to tan, a small amount of rays causes redness or even burns
  • it is recommended to use the solarium very carefully and check the reaction of the skin to UV rays
  • tanning is suggested on devices with 100 W lamps with a low UV-B coefficient
  • the first session should not exceed 5-7 min *, and the tanning time on devices with 160 W lamps should be shortened even up to 4 minutes.
  • a limited time spent in the sun is recommended
  • it is necessary to use protective cosmetics (SPF 14)
Type III European dark
  • dark blond to brown hair
  • blue, gray or brown eyes
  • light to pale brown skin
  • quite high skin resistance to burns
  • a small dose of UV rays causes browning of the skin
  • use of the tanning bed without major contraindications, however, it is recommended to check the skin's reaction to UV rays
  • on devices equipped with 160 W lamps, tanning should be limited even to 5-6 minutes *
  • in the case of sunbathing, the recommended factor from the SPF 5-10
Type IV. Mediterranean
  • dark hair
  • dark brown eyes
  • dark skin, light brown
  • very high resistance to burns
  • fast and intensive tanning, a small dose of UV rays causes strong pigmentation and browning of the skin
  • use of the solarium without restrictions (however, it should be remembered that excessive exposure of the skin to UV rays has negative effects)
  • in the case of sunbathing, the recommended factor from SPF 2-6
Type V
  • dark hair, black
  • dark eyes
  • dark skin, dark brown, to this type Arabs, representatives of the yellow and mixed race (mulatto)
  • permanent skin pigmentation as protection against the sun
  • there is almost no risk of burns
Type VI
  • black hair
  • dark brown or black eyes for this type include representatives of black race
  • permanent skin pigmentation
  • there is no risk of sunburn

*The tanning times given should only be considered as approximate. The proper tanning time depends on many factors, among others the type of lamps, their quantity or type of device.

The darker the skin before tanning in the solarium, the better the tanning effect will be. People with very light complexion, who easily get sunburned, should use the solarium very carefully. During the first session, you must not exceed 5 minutes. A strong solarium is also not recommended. Do not be disappointed if after many sessions you get only a light tan. This is due to the poor skin's ability to produce pigment. The skin of people with a pale complexion, slightly darker, also requires great caution during the first sessions in the solarium. They should not exceed 5-8 minutes. After a few visits to the solarium, however, we get a nice, permanent tan, especially if we use cosmetics that accelerate tanning. People with beige skin, not susceptible to burn, will get a visible tan after the first session. Another disappointment may be the next sessions, when the bronze will not deepen. Then it is good to use ampoules with condensed tanning accelerators. People with dark skin after the first tanning will be brown, after next tanning color will intensify. They do not need to use cosmetics that accelerate tanning, only moisturizing and protecting the skin against premature aging.
Beginning in the summer of 2009, the information on qualifying sun tanning in solariums for carcinogenic factors was published and the world-famous comparison of “tanning in solarium harmful as arsenic” was published. Press materials informing about the harmfulness of tanning in solarium - and sunbathing in general - appear very often, negating any positive tanning benefits in the solarium, and highlighting the risks. Some people have adopted the use of the equality sign: tanning in the solarium = skin cancer. World-wide research shows that the theory that the causes of skin cancer only comes to the use of sunlight and tanning beds is not fully justified. Skin cancer is diagnosed most often in the Scandinavian countries, which are characterized by a small amount of sun, while in the sunny Mediterranean countries its number shown in the statistics is amazingly low. Inhabitants of southern countries live not only under more intense solar radiation, but also more often stay longer in the open air.
From 1980 to 2000, the incidence of skin cancer in Germany doubled, although UV radiation remained unchanged. According to scientists, people certainly did not go out more often to the sun than before, rather rarely, and what's interesting in Northern Germany we deal with a higher frequency of melanoma than in the more sunny, southern part of Germany. It is also easy to notice that more and more people spend almost their entire lives in closed rooms. People who work in the open air are much less likely to be victims of skin cancer than in the case of office workers. Research conducted in the USA indicated a large diversity: in the employees employed in offices, melanoma was six times more common than in the case of men working in the open air. Simultaneous studies at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Sydney's Melanoma Clinic confirm these results.
In addition, malignant cases of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, occur most often in places that are not or very rarely exposed to the sun, such as, for example, soles of the feet, buttocks, groin, back sides of the legs. The distribution of melanoma on the body cannot be reconciled with the sun as the direct cause of their occurrence. In Scotland it was found that melanomas on the feet appear five times more often than on hands, and in Japan 40% of all melanomas occur on the feet and soles of the feet. If sunlight was their direct cause, melanoma should appear on hands, not on feet. According to the researchers, geographical latitude does not correlate with the number of cases of skin cancer, but the diet (in particular high fat intake, a small amount of fresh food) and intensive use of sun protection agents. However, abnormal or excessive tanning may increase the risk of skin cancer. This is an undeniable fact. The most important here is UVA radiation, which penetrates deeply into the skin, can affect the structure of the connective tissue.
The same applies to the use of sun protection products that contain toxic components that can increase the risk of melanoma. In addition, repeated use of solariums during the year contributes to the intensification of premature aging processes. Intensive tanning (in the solarium and in the sun) dries up the skin and can cause discoloration, freckles, spots, causes skin firmness to decline, and thus - wrinkles. During tanning in the solarium, the skin is attacked in a short time with rays of greater intensity than the natural sun's rays. Artificial solarium rays can cause photoallergic reactions such as rash, blisters and itching. Sun tanning also poses a risk of eye damage, such as cataracts and keratitis. The type of addiction to the use of tanning salons, called tanorexia, is dangerous. This concept and the characterization of addiction were described in 2005 by dermatologists from the University of Galveston.
The harmfulness of solariums does not depend on the age of people using these devices - the skin gets full maturity at the age of 3-5 and does not differ in the structure from the skin of an adult - but from absorbed doses of UV radiation, hence the frequency of irradiation, the time of these irradiations, and also from the skin phototype (individual compliance). As you might expect, an obsessive tanning habit affects mainly women. In tanorexia, as in all other types of addictions, you fall in unconsciously. We think only about the advantages and pleasures of sunbathing and beautiful tannins, but we cannot imagine how it can bring damage and threats. The skin condition of people who often sunbathe for a whole year, whether in the sun or in a sunbed is very lowered. The skin becomes thick, rough, hard, less elastic, often with dilated capillaries. The risk of skin cancer also increases, as reported by up to 70%.
The solar industry in Poland and in the world is identified mainly with a tan, but that's not all. Tanning also has its advantages. In the first place should be mentioned the synthesis of vitamin D3, improvement in well-being, relaxation, and finally a sense of happiness. There are a number of scientific studies in the world confirming this opinion. In the first place among scientists dealing with the topic of vitamin D3 synthesis is Professor Michael Holick from the Boston Medical University, specialist photobiologist and dermatologist who has been studying vitamin D for over 30 years. He believes that vitamin D plays a decisive role in managing the immune system. It maintains defense mechanisms in constant readiness, prepared to attack infections, as well as multiplication of cancer cells. Vitamin D is formed under the influence of exposure to ultraviolet radiation. This means that one of the important factors supporting immunity is directly dependent on the radiation dose received, i.e. being in the sun.
It is known for a long time that in our latitude there is a relatively long period in which the sun's rays fall at such an angle that the synthesis of the vitamin no longer occurs. This is an excellent opportunity to supplement an ineffective diet and visit a solarium at this time to provide the body with sufficient vitamin D. The effects of vitamin D deficiency are mainly rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults, reduced immunity and inflammation of the skin, increased risk of autoimmune diseases. In addition, there is no risk of overdose of vitamin D3 by tanning, which in turn is possible when taking tablets with this vitamin. UV radiation also helps in the treatment of certain skin diseases, alleviates the symptoms of psoriasis and has anti-inflammatory properties, increases the efficiency of the body, improves the functioning of the cardiovascular system, stimulates the immune system. Another very positive effect of exposure to UV radiation is the increase of skin resistance and increase the ability to receive subsequent UV doses. In winter, the use of solarium improves the mood and makes us dynamic and active.
Tanning in solarium also has a beneficial effect on the treatment of many diseases, such as: nose disease, throat disease, bronchitis, rickets, neuralgia of the sciatic nerves, acne vulgaris, difficult wounds, psoriasis, chronic lichenosis. These are many positive factors, which, however, are often dimmed by attacks directed directly towards the solariums. It is also the industry itself who is to blame for such a state of affairs to a large extent, which in the pursuit of faster sunbathing reached for more and more powerful lamps. It should be remembered that everything should be useded in moderation, because although the lack of sun and UV radiation leads to various diseases, we are also exposed to diseases when overdose. Here education plays an important role in the media, including public media, not only industry ones, and the work of all people in everyday contact with tanning enthusiasts in a solarium. The solar service should be not only a business, but also care for health and safety. Good, technically efficient devices and good lamps that meet the standards are an absolute necessity in modern solariums. It is therefore worth to apply the principles of proper tanning and know all possible contraindications.

Golden rules for proper tanning:

  • Do not exaggerate, but sunbathe wisely, adapt to the tanning times recommended for your skin type.
  • Before sunbathing, remove makeup from the skin, take off jewellery, wash the perfume.
  • Do not use any sunscreen in solarium.
  • If you are taking medicines, read the leaflet before sunbathing or consult your doctor.
  • During tanning, close your eyes, always wear protective goggles.
  • Before and after sunbathing, use skin care products, especially solar cosmetics, as they are adapted to the needs of tanned skin.
  • There are cases where using the solarium is completely out of the question.

Do not use the solarium when:

  • you are pregnant or while breastfeeding,
  • suffering from thyroid, kidney or heart disease,
  • you have extensive acne, a lot of moles, warts, herpes
  • on the skin there are pigmented stains, scars or someone in the family had a skin cancer
  • you have problems with dilated capillaries on the body or face
  • you are taking medicines that exclude exposure to the sun, including some contraceptives.

Rules for the rational use of tanning beds developed by WHO:

Solariums are not recommended for people:
  • with phenotype I or II,
  • with numerous dye marks on the skin,
  • with a lot of freckles,
  • with sunburns in childhood,
  • under 18,
  • with pre-cancer or skin cancer,
  • with skin damaged by the sun,
  • receiving UV sensitizing drugs.
  • The WHO recommends that persons using the solarium should sign a printed consent for exposure.
Currently, the Ministry of Health is not planning to prepare a legal act prohibiting the use of solaria for people who are under 18.
The Polish Solar Association, however, is of the opinion that the introduction of 0.3 W / m2 in Poland, as a standard applicable to all tanning equipment - new and used, is the only solution that provides even more secure tanning and enabling more effective defense against negative and untrue accusations towards the solar industry through the media. The Polish Solar Association recommends the introduction of a 0.3 W / m2 standard with an effective control and measurement system for representatives of relevant government administration bodies, including: the Ministry of Health, the Office for Competition and Consumer Protection, the State Trade Inspection and the General Sanitary Inspectorate. The PZS position is in line with the decisions of the European Commission, striving to introduce the 0.3 W / m2 standard throughout the European Union, through appropriate changes in the provisions of Community law. As regards the introduction of a new standard in Poland, PZS cooperates with international organizations: the European Sunlight Association and Prosafe.