A Dermatology Times reporter asked Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy last week, “How comfortable would you be putting your children in tanning beds and exposing them to UV?” It was a fair question — posed to DT by a Florida dermatologist who was skeptical of indoor tanning’s positions on UV.
My family has lived in Michigan, Florida and Colorado and has experienced all kinds of varying sun exposure as a result. My 6-year-old son gets regular sun exposure, has been taught by his parents to use sunscreen correctly when he will be outdoors for extended periods on sunny days and has never experienced a sunburn to my knowledge. In contrast, I’ve personally watched many of his playmates sunburn in the summer even if their parents were applying and re-applying sunscreen as directed.
That’s because our family uses — but does not overuse — sunscreen. That approach allows my son to develop a gradual base tan through the spring and summer that — in combination with the correct use of sunscreen on days when we’re outside for extended periods — multiplies the efficacy of the sunscreen. When your skin is 2-4 times more resilient because of your tan, that multiplies the effectiveness of the sunscreen.
The end result: My son doesn’t sunburn. Many of his friends do.
What’s more, let me flip the question and point out that my son has healthy, natural vitamin D blood levels that we now know cannot be maintained through regular diet and children’s supplements without the benefit of regular sun exposure. That means he is starting life with healthier bones and, as has been shown in hundreds of studies and papers, now appears to be at a reduced risk for most forms of cancer later in life.
That’s good parenting. We’re using education — not fear — to teach him proper sun care. And it works.
When my son becomes a teenager and is old enough to properly operate a tanning unit he will have the option to use indoor tanning equipment in an intelligent fashion as I do. When that day comes in about a decade I sincerely hope dermatology’s leaders will have abandoned their antiquated, myopic sun abstinence message in favor of what the science clearly shows: that the physiological and psychological benefits of regular, non-burning UV exposure far outweigh the risks related to overexposure and burning.