The most dangerous devices in the home and in beauty care in terms of radiation are sunbeds for tanning the skin. They produce ultraviolet (UV) radiation with which it is possible to tan, and in the worst case, burn skin. A permanent tan and repeated burning of the skin significantly increases the risk of skin cancer. Use of sun beds should be limited.

Acquiring a tan from a solarium is not safer than exposure to natural sunlight. The damage caused by UV radiation is the same, independent of the source. It has long been known that heavy use of sunbeds increases the risk of melanoma. The damage caused depends on the power of the sun bed, individual skin sensitivity, and how much time is spent in the sunbed.

The use of a sun bed during pregnancy does not damage the development of the foetus. The effects of the UV radiation are limited to the mother’s skin.

The use of sunbeds is prohibited for people under 18 years of age. There must be a person in charge at the solarium to ensure that people under 18 do not use the equipment. The person in charge must be present at all times when the sunbed is in use and must also instruct the customer on the safe use of the equipment and eye protection, if necessary.

Checklist for sunbed user

A visit to a solarium should not be so long that the skin is red after the session. Be especially careful during the first session, especially if the skin is not already tanned. Five minutes is a suitable starting time. Adjust the session length depending on your own skin type.

Follow all instructions and use the device only for as long as recommended in the user instructions. Sunbed operator must give instructions to users without being asked for them.

Many ill-effects of UV radiation depend on the amount of radiation exposure accrued over a lifetime. Limit your number of sessions to 20 times per year and monitor your exposure to sunlight also.

Always use eye protection. Keeping your eyes closed does not offer enough protection for the strong UV radiation of a sunbed.

If you are using some kind of medication, consult with your physician before visiting the solarium. Certain pharmaceuticals increase the sensitivity of the skin to light.

Remove all cosmetic products before using a sunbed. Products which claim to deepen a tan should not be used. Certain cosmetic products increase the sensitivity of the skin to light, and increase the risk of burning.

You should not try to treat skin diseases yourself by using a sunbed. Ask for advice from your dermatologist. There are special UV devices for medicinal use.

Monitor your skin and consult your physician if moles on your skin begin to shrink, bleed, grow, or change in appearance. The possibility of curing skin cancer is much greater if the disease is diagnosed at an early stage.

A sunbed shall not be used if

  • you are under 18 years old
  • your skin is currently burnt
  • you burn easily in the sun
  • you have often been sunburned as a child
  • you do not tan in the sun
  • your skin is pale or freckled
  • you have a lot of moles
  • you or a close relative has had skin cancer
  • you use photosensitising medicines or cosmetics.

The solarium must have

  • a person in charge present at all times when the solarium is open to customers
  • eye protection available
  • radiation safety instructions (e.g. STUK K18 poster) in each solarium room and at any payment machine if it is located outside the solarium room
  • brief instructions for use of the solarium equipment in the immediate vicinity of the solarium equipment.

Prohibitions, regulations and recommendations on the use of sunbeds

The Radiation Act prohibits the use of sunbeds by persons under 18 years of age, except on medical prescription.

The Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK)'s regulation on the use of non-ionising radiation in cosmetic or similar procedures sets a maximum level of exposure to UV radiation for the use of sunbeds, which severely limits the annual use of sunbeds.

In 2005, 2007 and 2019, the Nordic radiation safety and health authorities of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland published joint position statements in English recommending that the use of sunbeds for tanning should be avoided. Several international expert groups have commented on the health risks of sunbed use. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified sunbeds as category 1, "carcinogenic" in its cancer classification in 2009.

The EU Scientific Committee on Health, Environment and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) issued an assessment of the risks of UV radiation from sunbeds in 2016. The committee concluded that UV radiation from sunbeds causes skin cancer and that there is no safe UV dose for sunbeds.

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