Can Tanning Improve Your Mood?
While some people use tanning beds only occasionally, at least 10 percent of
indoor tanners use tanning beds for more than 20 hours a year. While most
research on the motivations of frequent tanners has focused on their desire to
improve appearance, Dr. Steven R. Feldman of Wake Forest University School of
Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, conducted a study that may indicate
that some people tan because it makes them feel relaxed.
" Tanning isn't just about pigment change in the skin," Feldman said, "UV
radiation has complex effects, among them an effect on mood, at least in
frequent tanners". "Not everybody is susceptible to this effect". "I think that
the people who tan four to six times before the prom or a cruise don't have the
same response". "Like a lot of other things, tanning is bad when done to
To examine what lures frequent tanners to tanning beds, Dr. Feldman and his
researchers studied 14 people -- all women except one man -- who used tanning
beds 8 to 15 times a month. During tanning sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays,
participants spent part of the time in a normal tanning bed and part of the
time in a tanning bed that did not emit any UV radiation. The beds were
equipped with special filters that made them appear indistinguishable. On
Fridays, participants were offered the chance to use the tanning bed of their
choice - either one bed for the whole session or a combination of the two.
Although the tanning beds looked identical, frequent tanners were not fooled.
Out of the 12 people who chose to tan on Fridays, all but one selected the
UV-emitting bed for the entire session. What's more, tanners felt more relaxed
and less tense after using a UV tanning bed than they did after using a dummy
How UV radiation relaxes people is a bit of a mystery. One possibility,
according to the report, is that it may trigger skin to produce substances
called endorphins that are associated with pleasure. Whether endorphins are
involved remains uncertain, however, because the researchers did not measure
endorphin levels before and after UV exposure.
The Study May Also Explain How UV Lowers Blood Pressure
Dr. Joseph Mercola, www.mercola.com, believes these findings also support the theory that UV lowers blood pressure.
He cites an article from 1997 from a peer-reviewed journal that supports this
concept. In fact, it appears that the further from the equator one moves the
more risk there is of high blood pressure. The teenagers exposed to tanning
beds felt a relaxing effect, and since stress raises blood pressure, these
teenagers experiencing relaxed feelings from UV rays are likely lowering their
The researchers theorize that UV exposure leads to the release of chemicals in
the brain called endorphins, which are linked to both pain relief and euphoric
feelings. The researchers believe that decreased vitamin D production actually
results in increased parathyroid hormone production that actually serves to
increase blood pressure. Another study actually found that vitamin D is a
negative inhibitor of the renin-angiotensin system and this serves to lower
"So the end result, Mercola says, "is you can happily ignore the advice of
conventional medicine physicians that warn you to stay out of the sunlight".
"Their advice is one of the major reasons why we have an increase in heart
disease. We all need sunlight and when we don't receive it our health will
suffer. We just need to exert common sense guidelines and always avoid getting
Info from Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, (Reuters7/04), Dr.
Joseph Mercola www.mercola.com (7/04)