Have Your Day in the Sun
Be healthy about sun exposure with Island Sun Tanning
by Michelle Garling


Michelle Garling of Suburban Life sat down with Island Sun Tanning owner, Debbie Burns, to discuss how to be healthy about sun exposure


SUBURBAN LIFE: What benefits does exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays provide?  
DEBBIE BURNS: UV exposure is the body’s natural source of vitamin D production. We now know that overzealous sun avoidance has created an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in North America. Most of us live and work indoors today; we get less regular sunshine than at any point in human history, and now we’re beginning to see the effects of that.

SL: How does vitamin D improve our health? 

DB: We used to think vitamin D only assisted in the absorption of calcium to promote bone mineralization, which may prevent or slow the progression of osteoporosis and prevent rickets. But in the past decade we’ve learned that vitamin D—at levels only naturally consistent with being outdoors and getting regular sun—actually regulates controlled cell growth in every system in the body and also helps to strengthen the immune system. Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of most forms of cancer, as well as heart and autoimmune diseases.

SL: How much UV exposure is recommended? 

DB: Studies show that regular UV exposure—two three times a week for 10 to 15 minutes each—is the best way to maintain vitamin D levels. Unlike vitamin D supplements, it is impossible to overdose on vitamin D produced naturally by the body. Consider: You make as much vitamin D getting a suntan as you would get from 100 to 200 glasses of vitamin-D-fortified whole milk. Unless you’re eating half a dozen servings of fresh-from-the-stream salmon every week, there really is no natural food source of vitamin D.

SL: What if you can't spend enough time in the sun? 

DB: Professional indoor tanning salons can be a surrogate for what nature intended for people who can’t get outdoors. Visit a responsible and professional tanning salon like Island Sun Tanning. A professional tanning salon has nationally certified staff members and completes professional training to guide their customers achieve their desired results and goals.


SL: Does indoor tanning provide all the same benefits as the sun?

DB: Yes. Most sunbeds in professional salons emit the same kind of UV as natural sunlight. Sunbeds are sometimes more intense than sunlight, but that’s why the exposure times are shorter indoors. The dose you receive is carefully controlled by exposure-schedule guidelines to prevent sunburn based on your skin type.

SL: Why do so many dermatologists say UV exposure is dangerous?

DB: The dermatology industry groups who say that any UV is harmful are usually paid by pharmaceutical companies who profit from saying that any UV exposure is harmful. There’s so much money made by them telling people to overuse sunscreen as a daily-use product instead of just as a product to prevent sunburn.


SL: Do they all agree or is there evidence that suggests otherwise?  
DB: More and more doctors and scientists are realizing the negative effects of total sun avoidance as vitamin D deficiency has become epidemic in our society. A growing number of physicians worldwide are balancing their messages about sunlight and UV exposure. Sunburn prevention—not sun avoidance—is the responsible message.


SL: Does using SPF suntan lotion also carry risks?

DB: The ingredients in chemical sunscreen do get into our bodies, which is why we believe that overuse can be harmful. The main active ingredient in most sunscreens, for example, is a manmade chemical called oxybenzone, which CDC research has found in the urine of 97 percent of people today. It is a product that should only be used to prevent sunburn when sunburn is possible. We like to think of chemical sunscreen like we think of cough syrup. You wouldn’t take a spoonful of cough syrup every day to prevent a cough; you use it only when you need to use it.

SL: Can a tanning professional help me decide what is right for my skin?

DB: Our bottom line is sunburn prevention and practical lifelong skin care. No one teaches that any better than a professional tanning facility. We’ll help you learn your skin type and what you can do in our salon or outdoors in the sun. 

SL: What makes you a professional on this topic? 

DB: Island Sun Tanning is certified and has had extensive training. In fact, our consultants train for a minimum of 160 hours with a manager before they are allowed to work on their own. Training covers all aspects of UV, skin biology, skin care, vitamin D, customer service and even spray tanning. In addition they are also required to earn their Master’s Certification status from the International Smart Tan Network, an industry organization.

Clients can visit locations in Bensalem, Neshaminy, Fairless Hills, Huntingdon Valley and Newtown. For directions, contact information and details, visit IslandSun.org.


Michelle Garling is a freelance writer based in Doylestown.