Is visiting a tanning salon okay?

I have a client who is breastfeeding and wanting to go to a tanning salon. She has asked several people, including health care professionals, and has gotten different responses. Is this contraindicated?


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Tanning salons can be very enticing at this time of year when you want to begin developing a golden glow before heading out to the swimming pool or beach. But, contrary to many of the salon's claims (and popular belief), they are not without risks. The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers to be cautious when they hear advertising that tanning in a salon can be done safely, and without the harmful effects of the sun.

Research shows that ultraviolet rays can cause premature aging, sagging and wrinkling of the skin, eye injury (cataracts and retinal damage) and contributes to a much greater risk of skin cancer. Though ultraviolet rays don't (visibly) burn the skin as readily as a trip to the beach might, UV rays penetrate more deeply, weakening the skin's inner connective tissue. It can lead to melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. Americans (caucasians) have a 1 in 100 chance of developing melanoma, up 34% since 1973.

If looking for a tanning salon in your area, choose a reputable salon with a trained staff, that focuses on safety, cleanliness and comfort. When visiting a tanning salon, to reduce your risks:

  • Ask about the precautions the salon takes to ensure cleanliness. It is important that tanning beds be properly cleaned after each use to avoid the spreading of germs, bacteria and viruses.
  • Wear eye protection. The Food and Drug Administration requires that tanning salons instruct all their customers to wear protective eye goggles. Regular sunglasses are not sufficient to protect the eyes. Damage can occur to the eyes without you even being aware of it.
  • Choose the minimum dose of light.
  • Limit your exposure. The greater your exposure, the more likelihood you have of damaging your skin.
  • Make sure that the salon has trained staff to monitor you and to closely follow your progress.
  • If taking medications, over-the-counter, or prescription (such as antihistamines, tranquilizers and birth control pills), ask your pharmacist if they cause light-sensitivity.
  • If you have a medical condition, such as diabetes or lupus, be aware that exposure to UV rays can aggravate your condition. Check with your Health Care Provider.
  • Wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, and reapply frequently.

Though you see that visiting a tanning salon is not without risks, there is no research to indicate any problem directly related to use of a tanning bed while breastfeeding. Best wishes!


Need Advice?
Get answers from iVillage experts and other moms just like you!
Question Details
  1. Pick a subject:
Connect with 1,039,394 members just like you
Share your knowledge, ask questions.