Tanning Addiction

We are all aware of the dangers of tanning beds and their correlation to skin cancer, premature aging and wrinkles, yet millions continue to participate in this damaging practice to get that sunny glow. The real surprise is that there is something more to this strong desire to bronze ourselves, despite the known hazards.

New research shows that frequent tanners mimic the behavior of drug addicts, except in the case of the former, the dependence is on ultraviolet rays. Dr. Bryon Adinoff, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, conducted a study to prove that the human brain responds to UV lights just as a smoker’s brain responds to cigarettes.

Dr. Adinoff’s research consisted of a small group of regular tanners who were injected with a radioisotope that allowed for monitoring of their brain activity during tanning. Brain activity levels were higher during real tanning sessions, as opposed to those with no ultraviolet lights in use. The participants showed actual withdrawal symptoms after a session with no UV lighting, and they admitted that the urge to tan remained as high as it had been before the “faux” session.

So are fans of tanning responding to the actual effect that UV rays have on their brains, or are they just constantly in pursuit of a deeper, darker, sun-kissed shade? The probable answer is both. Of course, the best and safest course of action is to stay out of the tanning beds altogether. During the summer, there is ample opportunity to catch some natural rays, using the proper protection. See our upcoming Summer issue of GRAVITAS for details about recommended sunscreens to block those harmful rays. So, get your glow on, girls…but be smart about it and play it safe.

Your healthy, wrinkle-free, older self—many years down the road—will thank you!

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