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Is Tanning Addictive?


Updated April 28, 2010

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Question: Is Tanning Addictive?
My daughter likes to go tanning at a tanning salon. At first, she only went once a month, and now it is almost every day! I am worried that she may get skin cancer. I read that tanning can be addictive. Is tanning addictive?
Answer: Your daughter is not alone - the number of young women who use tanning beds on a regular basis is increasing, despite skin cancer warnings. There is a lot of pressure on both men and women to look their best, and for some, this means having a tan.

As a society, we often equate being pale with sickness and having a bronze glow with being healthy. This actually couldn't be further from the truth! A tan is your skin's reaction to being damaged by ultraviolet rays. By no means is tanning healthy for the skin.

Tanning addiction, or "tanorexia," has garnered a lot of attention in the media in recent years. Within the last five years, two studies have researched the psychological effects of tanning and have indeed found that tanning may be addictive for some people.

Researchers believe that tanning may be euphoric, producing a high that is similar to drug use. This could be caused by endorphins, which tanning may trigger the brain to release, some researchers believe. It is no secret that people feel more relaxed and upbeat after tanning, and this may be why. More research certainly needs to be conducted, but the results of the studies that have been done so far do support the idea that tanning is addictive.

While more studies need to be done concerning tanning addiction, it has been confirmed without a doubt that tanning can cause skin cancer. Indoor tanning increases the risk of developing melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. Although less serious to your daughter's health, tanning also may contribute to premature aging of the skin, which is aesthetically undesirable.

If your daughter wants a sunkissed look, encourage her to use self-tanning products like spray tanners, lotions, and bronzers instead of visiting a tanning salon.


Kaur, M. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, April 2006; vol 54: pp 709-711. Warthan, M.M. Archives of Dermatology, August 2005; vol 141: pp 963-966.

Mosher, C. and Danoff-Burg, S. Archives of Dermatology, 2010; vol 146: pp 412-417.

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