blog tanning bed psoriasis

Reality star Kim Kardashian has been transparent about her struggles with psoriasis, a common inflammatory condition characterized by patches of scaly, itchy skin that affects over eight million Americans. While seeing a celebrity announce and discuss her psoriasis symptoms in the public eye can be a breath of fresh air and positive influence on others who share this condition, it can also become a platform for myths to perpetuate. 

One such myth is the claim that Kardashian recently shared about using an indoor tanning bed as a way to improve her psoriasis symptoms. While it is true that dermatologists sometimes recommend UV light treatments for psoriasis, there are many important differences between these in-office treatments and the use of indoor tanning beds outside of a medical setting. 

To help set the record straight about UV light and psoriasis, we spoke with Nathalie Allison-Fecteau, Physician Assistant at Feinstein Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery. Here’s what she had to say about the safety of using indoor tanning beds to calm inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis, as well as what some of the best psoriasis treatments are.

Tanning vs. UV Treatments for Psoriasis

To better understand the difference between in-office UV light treatments for psoriasis and using tanning beds, it is important to first understand the different types of UV light. There are two types of UV light that reach the earth’s surface: UVA and UVB. UVA rays have longer wavelengths than UVB light and penetrate more deeply into the skin. UVA rays are primarily responsible for skin aging and long-term effects of sun damage on the skin, while UVB rays are responsible for sunburns on the skin’s surface. Tanning beds use primarily UVA rays to tan the skin, while UV psoriasis treatment devices use specific wavelengths of UVB light.

To further add to the differences between tanning beds and UV light treatments, Allison-Fecteau explains that “UV treatments for psoriasis are administered under the supervision of a healthcare professional and are tailored to the individual’s condition. The dosage and frequency of UV exposure are carefully controlled to ensure effectiveness while minimizing the risk of side effects, such as burns or skin damage. 

“On the other hand, tanning beds emit UV radiation but are not specifically designed or regulated for treating medical conditions like psoriasis. Tanning beds may provide some temporary relief for psoriasis symptoms due to exposure to UV radiation, but they lack the precise control and monitoring provided in medical phototherapy settings. Additionally, tanning beds can increase the risk of skin cancer and premature aging, making them a less safe option for psoriasis treatment compared to medical phototherapy. It’s important to consult a dermatologist to determine the most suitable treatment plan for individual cases.”

Other Psoriasis Treatment Options

While medical UV light treatments can be an effective option to help calm psoriasis symptoms, they are by no means the only option. In fact, the best psoriasis treatment protocol may require a multifaceted approach and should be customized to suit your specific needs.

“Psoriasis treatments typically involve topical creams or ointments, phototherapy, oral medications, and biologic injections,” says Allison-Fecteau. “Topical treatments like corticosteroids, vitamin D analogs, and coal tar preparations are often used for mild to moderate cases. Phototherapy, which involves exposure to ultraviolet light (UV), can be effective for moderate to severe psoriasis. Oral medications like methotrexate, cyclosporine, and acitretin may be prescribed for more severe cases. Biologic drugs, such as TNF-alpha inhibitors or interleukin inhibitors, are reserved for severe psoriasis that doesn’t respond to other treatments.”

Why Does My Psoriasis Get Better In Summer?

Another reason why many people believe the misconception that tanning beds can treat psoriasis is the fact that psoriasis patients often report improved symptoms in the summer months. There are several reasons behind this, though none point to the use of tanning beds as an effective or safe solution. 

It is true that small amounts of sunlight may help to ease psoriasis symptoms. However, this is a very delicate balance, because too much sun exposure can be a trigger for a psoriasis flare and can also increase the risk of skin cancer. This is why it is much safer and more effective to seek medical phototherapy, which can control the dosage and type of light used, rather than using sunlight or indoor tanning beds to help calm skin inflammation.

Additionally, most climates experience higher air humidity during the summer months, making the skin less dry and therefore less prone to itching and other uncomfortable psoriasis symptoms. Salt water has also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin, which could also account for the easing of psoriasis symptoms in the summer when more people are vacationing and spending time in the ocean.

Common Psoriasis Triggers to Avoid 

In addition to discussing your specific psoriasis symptoms with your dermatologist, doing the best you can to avoid known triggers of those symptoms can help to soothe your skin and prevent painful flare-ups. Some of the most common psoriasis triggers include:

  • Prolonged sun exposure and sunburns
  • Skin injuries
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Environmental allergies
  • Stress

Bottom Line: Tanning Beds Don’t Cure Psoriasis

While Kim Kardashian’s intent to share advice with and support others who are struggling with psoriasis was well-meaning, her recommendation to use tanning beds outside of a medical setting isn’t backed by clinical evidence. In fact, tanning beds and prolonged exposure to natural sunlight can make psoriasis symptoms worse. Instead of taking matters into your own hands (and potentially putting your skin at risk of skin cancer), talk to an experienced medical professional who can recommend the safest and most effective psoriasis treatments for your individual needs. Medical phototherapy, along with topical and oral medications and injectable treatments can all be appropriate therapies to better manage your psoriasis.

To schedule an appointment to discuss the best psoriasis treatment options for you with one of our skin experts, please call our South Florida office at 561-498-4407 or easily request a consultation online.