A Tan to Die For

As it is moving towards the Autumn and sun tans start to fade, more and more people will be looking at extending their tans and the use of a sunbed seemed to be the quickest and easiest way to do this. 

This is becoming a lot easier with the wider availability of sunbeds despite the dangers being long discussed in the media, particularly in gyms and health centres. Almost 5 million people in the UK have a gym membership and approximately a third of these people are aged 15-24. The large majority of sunbed users are aged 30 and under. 

 The dangers of sunbed use are more apparent with the increasing number of sunbeds being available for regular use and by under 18s despite stricter laws now in place.

Essentially, these sunbeds are unmanned and staff are not trained appropriately to be able to give adequate, if any advice to customers.  Many would assume that by using a sunbed at a gym or health club, greater care may be taken than by using a drop in tanning shop but these sunbeds will usually be housed in a corner of a changing room and will not usually be monitored or cleaned after each use. In fact, often there will be signs to ask customers to wipe down the sunbeds themselves before or after use. Failure to clean the sunbeds adequately can lead to a build up of bacteria and can cause infection to the user. 

Burns from sunbeds are common where users have either been on the sunbed for too long on each occasion, used the sunbed with sensitive skin or have been using the sunbed on a number of days consecutively. It is important that staff are trained to consult with each customer before their use.

Each individual’s skin will react differently to the UV rays and customers must be aware of this, however in general there are different categories of skin type which will give an indication as to how long would be reasonable to spend on a sunbed. Unfortunately, it appears to be increasingly the case that staff are not making adequate enquiries before allowing customers to use the sunbeds and there have been a number of reports in the media detailing horrific burns from the use of sunbeds which were not supervised and no advice was given before a customer was allowed on a sunbed.  

Many sunbed users will not appreciate the severity of ‘a few extra minutes’, as the majority will not have experienced an assessment of skin type or being questioned on their history of sunbed use. The general practice in gyms and health centres appears to be to sign an initial disclaimer when joining giving general rules regarding sunbeds but then no regulation or review of the use of these.

A number of problems are also caused where either no or inadequate eye wear is provided. Without eye protection supplied, some think that it is sufficient to close their eyes whilst on the sunbed, when in reality the harmful UVA rays can still radiate through the eye lids. Conjunctivitis and irritation to the eyes are short term problems caused by this but there are also long term implications such as cataracts.

Given the ever increasing media coverage highlighting the dangers of using sunbeds, greater care needs to be taken by these establishments as to how these are monitored.