“Sun responsibly. Vitamin D, naturally healthy.” That’s the slogan on the facade of Sunday’s tanning studio in Breda. Other tanning salons with branches in the province also promote the tanning bed as a healthy choice. Even GPs would recommend it. An enticing message, as the days get shorter and darker. But what about the claims of the tanning salons?
According to Sun & Shine (locations in Helmond and Deurne), there is no difference between sunlight and the light from a sunbed. Sunday’s (Breda, Eindhoven, Tilburg, Den Bosch and Oss) claims that using the sunbed is healthy and that it is the most efficient way to produce vitamin D. Tanning studio and also tanning bed seller Carma in Veghel even believes that general practitioners prescribe the tanning bed in the event of a vitamin D deficiency, because supplements would not work properly.
Omroep Brabant presented four claims from the tanning salons to dermatologist Sharon Dodemont of the Catharina Hospital in Eindhoven and toured eight general practices in the province. Is it true what the tanning salons say?
Claim 1: There is no difference between sunlight and the light from a tanning bed.
Dodemont: “This is not true. Both in the sun and under the sunbed you are exposed to UV-A radiation. This type of radiation causes skin aging and also damages it. The difference is that you are exposed to much more UV-A under a tanning bed than in the sun. That also causes more skin damage.”
This is as follows: European legislation prescribes tanning salons that the radiation from a tanning bed may not exceed 0.3 watts per square metre. That is comparable to the strength of the midday sun in the Mediterranean Sea, or solar power 12. According to the KNMI, the sun’s power in the Netherlands is never higher than 8. On a November day like today, the weather institute reports sun power 1. So a big difference.
Although both the sun and the sunbed emit UV-A, there is indeed a difference in the power of the light. In addition, the power of the sun varies during the day due to the position of the sun and cloud cover, while the sunbed can constantly radiate maximum.
Claim 2: The best way to make vitamin D is to lie in a tanning bed.
According to Dodemont, this is not true either. “Just go outside. That is also good for you because you move. It is enough to go outside for 15 minutes with your hands and face in the sun,” says the dermatologist.
“The vitamin D you make comes from sunlight for 2/3 and from food for 1/3. A vitamin D deficiency can be remedied with supplements and foods such as oily fish. And so by going outside.”
Claim 3: General practitioners prescribe the sunbed in case of a vitamin D deficiency.
GP practices in Brabant do not have to think twice about it: “We never refer patients to the solarium. In the event of a vitamin D deficiency, we will always look at other solutions, such as medication,” says general practice Het Ven in Veghel in a response.
“This is really nonsense”, says a surprised assistant from Breda. “In my fifteen years as an assistant, I have never seen a GP prescribe the sunbed.”
Another assistant from Eindhoven, with more than twenty-five years in the profession: “I can say with certainty that I have never seen a general practitioner prescribe the sunbed.”
Claim 4: Using a tanning bed is healthy, because you make vitamin D with it.
Sunday’s advertises special lamps that emit UV-B. According to Dodemont, it is true that your body produces vitamin D from UV-B radiation. However, that does not mean that the sunbed is a healthy choice. “Even if you were to make enough vitamin D under a tanning bed, that would not outweigh the proven risks that it entails. Of course you need vitamin D, but not from a tanning bed.”
At the beginning of October, the Integrated Cancer Center of the Netherlands (IKNL) reported that the number of skin cancer diagnoses will increase rapidly in the next ten years. According to the IKNL, ‘excessive exposure to UV radiation from the sun and/or the solarium is the most important risk factor’ in the development of skin cancer.
‘Seduced by incorrect information’
The KWF has strongly discouraged the use of tanning beds for years and is therefore not happy with the claims of the tanning salons. Spokeswoman Annebel Schipper: “We find it annoying to see that people with incorrect information are tempted to lie under a sunbed, while we want to make sure that everyone knows that a sunbed is simply not healthy.”
The owner of the Sunday’s branch in Breda says in a response that she fully supports the claims on the website. Sun & Shine is considering adapting the website. Although the owner has doubts about the real risks of the tanning bed: “The worst that can happen is that you get skin cancer. That is relatively easy to remedy.” Carma’s owner could not be reached for comment.
The Advertising Code Committee says it will only take action in response to a complaint. The organization does say that advertisers must always be able to substantiate their claims.