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Sunbeds | Why are We Still Using Them?

Written by Nadia McCracken on May 12th, 2015.      2 comments

Tawny Willoughby Shares her Story SpaBeautyNZ Beauty News Tawny with her son.
Like so many of us, Tawny Willoughby used tanning beds four or five times a week when she was a teenager. Tawny shares: "I had my own personal tanning bed in my home, and so did a lot of my friends growing up ... everyone tanned. I didn't really even think about the future or skin cancer at the time." Tawny says there is no doubt that regular sessions on her tanning bed kept her looking and feeling great - back then.

That is because tanning can be addictive. For some people, "UV radiation can have a drug-like effect; they feel dependent on it and can experience withdrawal symptoms", says David Fisher, M.D., Ph.D. 
 
Image of Tawny after Skin Cancer Treatment Tawny was diagnosed with skin cancer at the age of 21. Since that first diagnosis, she's had basal cell carcinoma five times and squamous cell carcinoma once. She now needs to have a check up every six to 12 months and she usually has a cancerous piece of skin removed at each visit.

Tawny, now 27 and a mum, shared selfie on Facebook last month in an effort to encourage other people not to make the same mistakes that she did.

This horrific image, taken after one of her cancer treatments, shows her face covered with bloody scabs and blisters. It's since been shared almost 50,000 times.

With this photo Tawny posted:
"If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go! This is what skin cancer treatment can look like," she wrote in a post along with the photo. "Wear sunscreen and get a spray tan. You only get one skin and you should take care of it."
 
You may have heard people say: "You only get the healthy rays in tanning beds," or "Tanning beds give you a 'base tan' to keep you from burning." The tanning bed industry convinced many of us with these great marketing claims when UVA rays, the rays predominantly used in tanning beds, were thought to be safe and only UVB rays from the sun were believed to be harmful.

Since then, we have grown much wiser. Definitive research has now proven that both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer. UVA rays have been specifically linked to melanoma. The light from sunbeds is much stronger than our summer midday sun, according to The Cancer Society.  

If you need any more convincing, here are three good reasons to ditch the sunbed:
 
  • Your risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent when you use tanning beds before the age of 35.
  • Last year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer  (IARC) shifted tanning beds to the highest cancer risk category, labelling it as: "carcinogenic to humans."
  • Not only are sunbed users more vulnerable to melanoma, they're also 2½ times more likely to be diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma and 1½ times more susceptible to basal cell carcinoma.
Only a week ago, the Government rejected a call for an outright ban on commercial sunbed use. The parliamentary health select committee has recommended a partial ban, which would limit UV tanning services to those aged over 18.

"We are satisfied that the bill as introduced would protect the vulnerable under-18 age group and allow adults to make informed decisions about sunbed use in an environment of improved operator compliance," the committee's report on the Heath (Protection) Amendment Bill said.

A recent survey of sunbed operators completed by Consumer NZ  highlights ongoing safety concerns about this industry. One operator allowed a 14-year-old to use a sunbed. Nearly half the operators that they visited failed to comply with the industry’s voluntary standard, 7 years after it was introduced.

We ask, what more can be done to get the "ditch-the-sunbed" message across?
As always, we love hearing your thoughts, so feel free to get in touch.

For more information on the risks of sunbeds, you can download the information sheet supplied by The Cancer Society.
 

2 Comments

Jay says ...
"Tawny Willoughby used tanning beds four or five times a week when she was a teenager" Four to five times a week is OVERexposure. No indoor tanning operator will allow a client to tan more than once per 48hour period, limiting exposure to maximum 3 times per week (as per voluntary standards and Auckland council enforced bylaw). It should be no surprise that this blatant overuse turned into skin cancer. Banning sunbeds and taking away this only form of control will push sunbeds into the hands of home users and potentially drive up overexposure in cases like this one.
Whether or not sunbeds are "bad" is besides the point when people like this bring out their "sob stores", it shows a lack of education and misuse/overexposure of sunbeds led to their condition, rather than the sunbeds themselves.
Charlotte says ...
Sadly Jay, there are still sunbed operators out there that do just that. There are many gyms that give people a free rein, and only a month ago I heard of a lady who was offered a 20 min session for her first time in a “replicable” salon.
Even using a sunbed 2-3 times a week, slowly building up the minutes within the recommended guild-lines still exposes your skin to very high levels of UVA, 100% fact.

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