How healthy can a bio-solarium be?

Every child knows that visiting a solarium is not healthy. But so-called “bio-solariums” promise an attractive solution: thanks to specially filtered UV -radiation you should not be harmful, but even healthy for the skin. That sounds tempting! But how healthy are the special sunbeds really? We spoke with Dr. med. Susanne Steinkraus, specialist for dermatology in Hamburg.

What distinguishes bio-solariums from conventional sunbeds?

Supposedly “healthy sunbeds” advertise the use of devices that exclusively use a skin-friendly part of the light spectrum: UV A1 and indigo blue light. Harmful UV A2- and UV B-, UV C- and certain infrared rays, however, are filtered out. Thus, there is no risk of sunburn or skin cancer. Also premature skin aging is not promoted. On the contrary: they even promise anti-aging effects and an accelerated fat metabolism. The resulting tan is only a “positive side effect” of “healthy solariums”.

Not infrequently, the studios refer to their equipment as “light therapy” for the treatment of various skin diseases such as neurodermatitis, psoriasis or acne. They are also said to help with rheumatic diseases and depressions.

Solarium tanning is so dangerous

Can you really get a healthy tan on an organic sunbed?

Allegedly the radiation used in “bio-solariums” is supposed to enable a healthy and skin-friendly tan. Often even dermatologists are mentioned who work with the solariums, which increases the credibility. But Dr. Steinkraus warns: “Healthy tanning does not exist! And without a certain amount of UV B radiation would not produce a tan.” This means: Bio-solariums also accelerate the skin aging process and increase the risk of skin cancer, according to the expert.

The fat metabolism, however, is not accelerated – unlike what is often advertised.

Cure skin diseases with light therapy

According to Dr. Steinkraus, a fundamental distinction must be made between medically indicated light therapy for the treatment of skin diseases and visits to solariums. However, the side effects should also be known in the case of medically applied light therapy, which is carried out by a specialist. Because: “Every UV -exposure causes DNA -damage and increases the risk of skin cancer”, explains the expert.

It guesses/advises those, which want to tan exclusively, most urgently from the attendance of allegedly healthy Solarien and naturally also from conventional Sonnenstudios.

Junge Frau in schwarzem Badeanzug sonnt sich in rosa Solarium As good as sunbathing does – your skin suffers. © nelen /

You should also be aware of these risks

When taking certain medications such as St. John’s wort extracts and certain antibiotics such as doxycycline, skin redness can occur more quickly. The same applies to “natural sunbathing” outdoors. “The application of perfumes and creams containing fragrances should be avoided before sunbathing as the UV -radiation can trigger chemical reactions of the ingredients,” says Dr. Steinkraus.

The employees in bio-solariums often ask customers whether they are contact lens wearers – only then are protective glasses necessary. Complete nonsense! “Wearing protective goggles is extremely important because light of all wavelengths, both visible and invisible, can damage the eye,” warns the expert. “Besides inflammation of the conjunctiva and cornea, regular unprotected UV -irradiation can cause a clouding of the lens (cataract).

Blue rays damage certain areas of the retina that are responsible for visual acuity and can cause so-called macular degeneration – the most common cause of blindness”.

8 SOS -Tips for sunburn

Alternatives for a healthy tan without solarium

You cannot get a healthy tan either in the sun or in the (bio-)solarium. Because a tan is always a “cry for help” from the skin, which tries to protect itself. If you still do not want to do without tanned skin, you should rather use a self-tanner. This only leaves unsightly spots, discolours or is too cumbersome to apply? Some tanning and cosmetic studios offer tanning showers where you are sprayed evenly with colour.

At around 35 euros per full-body shower, spray tanning is also relatively cheap. Although the 30-40-minute visit to a bio-solarium only costs between 17 and 32 euros, depending on the tanning level, to achieve the desired effect on untanned skin, three visits in succession are necessary.

Use self-tanning lotion correctly

Helps light therapy for depressions ?

Der Umriss eines Gesichts einer Frau im Profil, die in den Himmel schaut. In ihrem Kopf Sonne und Wolken Medically initiated light therapy has been proven to help with depression. © Max4e Photo /

Among other things, bio-solariums often advertise as a form of light therapy to help with depression. We asked Dr. med. Maria Strauß, specialist for psychiatry, psychotherapy and neurology at the polyclinic of the University of Leipzig – the result is sobering:

“A bio-solarium is something different from light therapy and cannot replace it. A light therapy is carried out with special, very bright lamps and is based on the knowledge that our so-called ‘inner clock’ is mainly controlled by daylight and the length of the day. This biorhythm also controls the production of messenger substances such as melatonin and serotonin, which are also involved in the development of depression.

For example, the increasing lack of light in autumn and winter leads to an increased release of melatonin and a reduced occurrence of serotonin,” explains the expert. This is why some people also suffer from seasonal depression, known as winter depression.

However, light therapy in combination with antidepressants and psychotherapy can also help in cases of non-seasonal depression. Healthy people can demonstrably increase their well-being, says Dr. Strauß. But: To do so, we have to absorb the light through our eyes. However, in the Bio-Solarium we wear (hopefully!) protective goggles because of the risks mentioned. Spending a lot of time outside during the day is therefore the better alternative to the bio-solarium.

How depression develops and how to treat it

Conclusion: A healthy tan is only possible with a self-tanner

No matter whether you sunbathe in a bio-solarium, on a conventional tanning bed or in the open air. Nevertheless, such an outdoor summer day has been proven to promote health and well-being – because daylight has a positive effect on your psyche – regardless of whether you suffer from depression or not. In order to enjoy the pleasant warmth on your skin without hesitation, you should always use sunscreen, avoid the midday heat and drink enough.