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Can You Get Vitamin D from Using a Tanning Bed?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 05/22/2024

Vitamin D is crucial for many physiological functions, and maintaining healthy vitamin D levels has many health benefits. This fat-soluble vitamin promotes strong bones, is essential for a healthy immune system, and may reduce the risk of heart disease and colorectal cancer.  


Vitamin D is the only nutrient produced in the skin in response to sun exposure, and it’s important to understand that using tanning beds won’t raise vitamin D levels but may increase your risk of developing skin cancer. 


Learn why tanning beds don’t boost vitamin D and what steps you can take to promote healthy vitamin D levels.

Traffic sign sunbathing and tanning salon

How your body gets vitamin D from the sun


Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is produced when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sunlight. UVB rays permeate into the epidermal layer of the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. 


This complex biochemical pathway transforms stored previtamin D3 into vitamin D3, which is transported to the liver and kidneys and converted into an active form. 


Natural sunlight comprises different types of UV radiation, including UVA, UVB, and UVC light. However, vitamin D production can only be activated by UVB rays.        


How much vitamin D your body can produce depends on factors including your average UVB light exposure, age, skin tone, body weight, health status, and geographical location.


Watch the video below to learn why artificial UV radiation from tanning beds doesn’t promote vitamin D production.


Do you get vitamin D when you use a tanning bed?


Getting enough vitamin D from using tanning beds to maintain healthy vitamin D levels is impossible. 


The indoor tanning equipment found in most tanning salons doesn’t emit the UVB radiation needed to trigger vitamin D production. 


Tanning beds cause your skin to tan because they operate with UVA light that penetrates deeper into the skin compared to UVB light. While you may enjoy an even-looking tan, tanning lamps may increase your cancer risk.


The Skin Cancer Foundation issued a statement highlighting tanning beds' ineffectiveness in raising vitamin D levels. This report also warned frequent tanners of skin damage linked to indoor tanning and the cancer-causing effects of artificial UVA radiation. 


Research suggests that frequently visiting tanning salons significantly increases the risk of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. In fact, a ten-minute tanning session can expose you to 12 times the annual UVA dose compared to the dose you obtain from natural sunlight exposure. 


UVA radiation contains photons that can reach deep layers of skin and cause oxidative damage to cellular structures and DNA, significantly increasing the risk of carcinogenesis and skin cancer development.  

Tanning bed

How to replenish vitamin D in the winter


Most people live in regions with limited sunshine during the winter months, and it’s unsurprising that the risk of vitamin D deficiency is significantly greater during winter than in summer.


Vitamin D can be found in some foods, including oily fish, egg yolks, beef liver, and fortified milk. However, food sources typically contain minimal amounts, and it’s unlikely you will get enough vitamin D from dietary intake alone.


Vitamin D supplements and cod liver oil products are amongst the most popular dietary supplements and an easy and convenient way to promote healthy vitamin D levels. 


The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a daily intake of 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D. However, you may require significantly higher doses of vitamin D to raise levels if you are vitamin D deficient.  


To get the most benefit from vitamin D supplementation, choose vitamin D3, the same potent form of vitamin D produced in your skin. In addition, it's best to combine vitamin D3 supplementation with vitamin K2 to support calcium metabolism and promote healthy bones. 

Vitamin D capsule against the sun

Key takeaways


Maintaining healthy vitamin D levels is crucial for a strong immune system and healthy bones. However, using a tanning bed to boost vitamin D is ineffective and may significantly increase your risk of skin cancer.


Natural sunlight contains the UVB rays necessary to trigger the biochemical chain reaction in the skin that converts previtamin D to vitamin D3. In contrast, indoor tanning beds generally emit UVA rays that don’t activate vitamin D production.


Vitamin D3 supplementation and cod liver oil products are an easy and convenient way to support healthy vitamin D levels, especially during the winter months when sunlight is limited.  



FAQ


1. How long do you have to be in a tanning bed for vitamin D?

Using a tanning bed to boost vitamin D levels is ineffective. Vitamin D production requires ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. Tanning bed equipment only emits UVA rays that don’t trigger vitamin D synthesis.


2. How much vitamin D do you get from a sunbed?

Depending on the exact type of sun lamp used in tanning beds, some minimal amounts of vitamin D may be produced. However, obtaining adequate amounts of vitamin D to maintain healthy vitamin D levels by using sunbeds is impossible.


3. Is there any benefit to tanning beds?

While tanning beds may give you an even-looking tan, they also significantly increase your cancer risk.


In fact, the World Health Organization has classified UV-emitting tanning devices as a class one carcinogen, meaning that there is ample evidence that tanning is directly linked to the development of skin cancer.


4. How can I get vitamin D without sunlight?

Some food sources of vitamin D include oily fish, egg yolk, and organ meats. However, most foods contain small amounts of vitamin D, which won’t be enough to maintain vitamin D levels. 


Vitamin D supplements and cod liver oil products are an easy and convenient way to support healthy vitamin D levels.


5. What is the best way to get vitamin D in the winter?

Vitamin D supplementation is an effective and easy way to boost vitamin D during winter. It’s generally recommended to consume 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily to maintain healthy vitamin levels. However, you may require significantly higher vitamin D doses if deficient.  


6. Can you get vitamin D from using a tanning bed?

No, the UV light in tanning beds won’t trigger the production of vitamin D in the skin. Natural sunlight emits UVB rays needed to activate vitamin D synthesis. Tanning beds only emit UVA rays that don’t trigger the conversion of previtamin D3 to vitamin D3.

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