Health and skin experts agree: There is no safe way to tan, and tanning beds are no exception. Tanning beds work by exposing the skin to UV rays, which have been proven to cause skin cancer. The United States Department of Health and Human Services has classified exposure to sunlamps or sunbeds as "known to be carcinogenic to humans" and says that the longer the exposure, the greater the risk, especially to people exposed before the age of 30 [source: HHS]. Many states are discussing legislation to restrict access to tanning salons, especially for young people under 18.
A few years ago, the indoor tanning industry promoted that the bulbs used in tanning beds use more UVA rays than the UVB rays that are more likely to cause a burn, hoping this would convince people tanning beds were a safer alternative to natural light. But the World Health Organization (WHO) determined that they are equally dangerous, and UVA rays may be even more likely to cause melanoma, the most deadly of skin cancers [source: WHO].
Overuse of tanning beds can also lead to wrinkles, sunspots and other sights of premature aging. Even teenagers may notice additional moles or freckles after repeated visits to the tanning bed -- a certain sign of sun damage.
And if you've heard that indoor tanning promotes good health by boosting vitamin D levels, don't believe it. Most people get all the vitamin D they need from ordinary sun exposure and a balanced diet that includes dairy products, breads, fish and eggs.