Tanning Away Psoriasis
Psoriasis can be an incredibly frustrating condition due to its chronic and obvious nature. We routinely meet with patients who are in need of some hope – hope that they can wear clothing that suits their personality; hope that they can be more comfortable physically and emotionally. Because the frequency and persistence of psoriasis flareups can feel overwhelming, there may be a temptation to follow the advice found online or through unproven sources. One such suggestion that can lead psoriasis patients down a rabbit hole they don’t belong in is the idea that sunlight can help clear up the skin. We’d like to explore this theory.
Practical experience has taught us that UV light, or natural sunlight, could alleviate a degree of symptomology related to psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. This does not mean that hours of tanning in the natural sunlight can cure the autoimmune disorder, nor that it is good for the skin overall. It also does not mean that the use of a tanning bed is a suitable alternative to the professional UV treatments conducted in the dermatology setting.
There is no UV exposure without risk. It’s that simple. In the clinical environment, phototherapy is a common method of treating psoriasis. The difference between what your doctor prescribes, though, and tanning on your own, is that we utilize controlled energy that treats the skin with the safest and most efficient wavelengths of light – UVB wavelengths.
When psoriasis plaques and affected cells are exposed to UVB light, the rate of skin cell growth slows. Since it is the overgrowth of cells that leads to plaques, this treatment is effective and clearing large and small areas of psoriasis. Tanning does not work in the same way, especially when artificial sources are used.
Tanning beds are intended for tanning. To achieve this goal, the large majority of tanning beds use lamps that emit UVA light. UVA light allows the skin to change hue from light to golden brown without the same implications – a sunburn – that we may get from natural sunlight. Yes, some people do get a sunburn in a tanning bed, due to overexposure. The danger in the use of UVA light only is that the skin is still sustaining damage, it just may not show as readily as it does with natural sunlight. At some point, though, it does show up. Damage shows up in the form of premature aging, sagging skin, dark spots, and unhealthy skin growths.
Don’t rely on tanning beds for dermatologic improvement. Team with your New Jersey dermatologist to employ safe and effective methods for clearing uncomfortable plaques. Call our West Orange office at (973) 243-2300.