Can You Get Vitamin D From a Tanning Bed? Not What You Might Think!

girl in tanning bed

Are there any benefits to tanning beds? I was once told that they are a great idea in the winter, to boost my levels of vitamin D. So, can I get vitamin D from a tanning bed?

There is a huge amount of conflicting information on this matter online. Promoters of tanning beds argue that sunbeds are a great source of vitamin D, whilst scientists remind of us of the risks of using sunbeds, and say they cannot provide us with adequate vitamin D.

In short, the research shows you can get some vitamin D from using sunbeds. Not enough, however, to resolve a deficiency.

Let’s have a look at what vitamin D is, why we need it, and how we can get it.

What is Vitamin D?

Before we talk about if you can get vitamin D from a tanning bed it’s important to understand how Vitamin D works. We need vitamin D in order to absorb both calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients make sure our bones and muscles stay healthy.

When the body is exposed to sunlight it produces vitamin D, but most doctors recommend taking a supplement, particularly in winter months as it is hard to get the required amount through sun and diet alone. Some foods are a good source of vitamin D, which we will look at in more detail later on.

Can You Get Vitamin D From a Tanning Bed?

We can get vitamin D from sunlight thanks to the UVB rays it emits. The UVB rays react with 7-dehydrocholestoral found in our skin, and converts it into vitamin D. This can happen in as little as five minutes, and it is important to remember that over-exposure to the sun can lead to aging, or, more seriously, skin cancer.

So, do tanning beds give vitamin D? High-pressure sunbeds emit mostly UVA light, which does not lead to the production of vitamin D. UVA also penetrates much deeper into the skin, which can make the negative consequences more severe than staying out in the sun.

Low-pressure tanning beds emit more UVB rays than UVA, so are a better source of vitamin D, but can also lead to reddening and burning of the skin.

There are studies that show the small amount of UVB light in sunbeds is enough to help with vitamin D production and absorption. One study conducted by Anti-Cancer Research showed that using sunbeds helped maintain vitamin D levels after using them.

How much vitamin D do you get from indoor tanning? This study saw levels increase in the participants and concluded that 20 minutes on a sunbed can equal 30 minutes in the midday sun, when only looking at vitamin D levels.

The study suggests that during the winter months (if you live in the northern hemisphere) when it is not possible to get enough vitamin D from the sun, sunbeds can be a good alternative, because you can get vitamin D from tanning beds though generally speaking getting sun maybe be a better alternative if and when possible. If tanning outside it’s important to understand UV and how to affects tanning which we talked about here – what UV index is best for tanning.  

It is important, however, to make sure that you are using a UVB sunbed to get this effect, as well as not to over-use sunbeds, because of the associated risk.

So, do UV lamps help with vitamin D deficiency? Whilst the research shows that it can be a good way to boost vitamin D levels in the winter, taking a supplement is a much safer way to get the recommended daily dose and solve a deficiency.

Other Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is found in some foods, namely oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks. This obviously will only be an option for people who eat meat.

Many foods are fortified with vitamin D in the USA. Cow’s milk, breakfast cereals and some butters and spreads come fortified, but it is important to check the label to see how much vitamin D the product can provide.

From diet alone, especially for vegans and vegetarians, it is hard to get enough vitamin D. There are numerous supplements on the market, including pills and oral sprays. Doctors recommend using a vitamin D supplement, particularly in the winter, to take in the recommended daily dose of vitamin D.

Consider using a UVB sunbed as a source of vitamin D in the winter months but do consider the risks that come with using them as well. The magic ‘vitamin D tanning booth’, unfortunately, does not exist.

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