Cosmopolitan Magazine, with financial partnership from the American Academy of Dermatology and skin care giant Clinique, again misrepresented the difference between UV light emitted by the sun and UV light emitted in indoor tanning units.
The magazine told readers it is a lie to say that getting a base tan protects you from sun damage in a special “Practice Safe Sun” section in its May magazine, with help from AAD and Clinique. Cosmo quoted Georgetown University Dermatologist Sandra Read as saying, “Even a slight tan indicates that UV rays have broken down the DNA in your skin cells, making them more likely to mutate into precancerous tissue at some point in the future.”
Trouble is, it isn’t really true.
Saying that a tan is “damage” to the skin is like saying that exercise is “damage” to your muscles. On the micro-level, it is damage. But on the macro-level, your body is designed to repair that micro-damage as its macro way to build stronger muscle tissue.
In the same light, getting a tan is your body’s natural way to protect itself from sunburn. Melanin is, after all, one of the most powerful free-radical scavengers your skin can enjoy. To say that your skin should not be exposed to UV light is to say that your body should suffer severe vitamin D deficiency – the most severe result of sun-avoiding behavior.
The important distinction: No research has isolated tanning in a non-burning fashion as a significant risk factor for any form of skin cancer. Close examination of the studies that derms suggest show a correlation have not isolated tanning as opposed to sunburn and have not conclusively identified the causative mechanism for the association.
“It’s time for Cosmo and sun-scare derms to come clean and add some balance and accuracy to their message,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “To say that any tan is damage to the skin is misleading and potentially fraudulent. At a time when vitamin D research is showing that humans need to get regular UV exposure to be healthy Cosmo and its myopic for-profit sun-scare partners are burying their heads deeper in the sand and digging into their caveman mentality. When you really understand the issue you can’t help but be embarrassed for them for their ridiculous tactics.”
The professional indoor tanning community is the voice of reason on this issue: Sunburn prevention — not sun avoidance — is what we need to be teaching. Unfortunately for Cosmo and its partners, that doesn’t sell as much sunscreen.