Health Risks Of Tanning Salons: Sunbeds Can Give You Herpes, Expert Warns

Getty Images

Cancer is the health risk we usually associate with tanning salons. But an expert has now warned sunbeds may harbour bacteria and viruses, including herpes.

Dermatologist Dawn Marie Davis, an associate professor of dermatology and pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic, told Yahoo Health it was possible for herpes to be passed on to a person using a sunbed.

"We all have bacteria on the skin, which you’ve transferred to the bed. Then it’s being heated, but not so much to kill [the bacteria], then it becomes stronger and hardier,” she said.

“Then if you sweat, that only adds to the bacteria or virus’s ability to grow, and then if you have a nick or cut in your skin, which is very common, then you’re much more likely to acquire the infection.”

While it's well-known that herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that can be transferred from person to person during unprotected sex, less people may realise the infection can also affect other areas of the skin where there is a cut or break.

“In my practice, I’ve seen acquired bacterial infections, warts, and herpes infections from tanning beds based on the timing of the infection and distribution of the infection,” Davis added.

Speaking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, Dr Nitin Shori, medical director of Pharmacy2U and NHS GP, confirmed the possibility of bacteria and infections being passed between sunbed users.

“As with any publically used facility, a lack of good hygiene procedures and thorough cleaning could cause build-up of bacteria.

"The staph bacteria, for example, can be picked up from contaminated surfaces and can cause nasty skin infections," he said.

However, Shori added that we mustn't forget that the major and most common health risk of using sunbeds is skin cancer.

"Tanning beds can expose you to high levels of ultraviolet (UV) rays - greater than the midday tropical sun. Prolonged use can increase your likelihood of developing malignant melanoma, which can be life threatening," he said.

“The safer way to give your skin an instant sunshine glow is use fake tan.”

Fair skin, especially with red or fair hair

Skin cancer risk factors