Published on May 16, 2023
When used safely, indoor UV devices can provide many of the benefits provided by exposure to sunlight, an option for when the sun is not easily available
- Indoor UV devices are a great alternative when sun exposure is not an option during the winter months, when UVB is not available to make vitamin D, or when we are simply not able to get outdoors to access the mid-day sun
- Most people do not get enough sunshine or UVB exposure to contribute much to vitamin D status, however, there are some people who spend extended time outdoors in the mid-day sun or regularly use UVB devices, and these vitamin D inputs do contribute significantly to vitamin D status
- When considering a source of artificial UV light, it is important to be aware of the type of UV or light emitted by the device, its safety, and the physiological effects it may produce
Indoor UV devices are artificial sunlight options that can provide a wide spectrum of sunshine health benefits from UVA, UVB, visible light, red light and infrared waves. They are a great alternative when sun exposure is not an option during the winter months, when UVB is not available to make vitamin D, or when we are simply not able to get outdoors to access the mid-day sun. Both natural as well as artificial sunlight can act as a major interventional tool to help prevent and heal devastating diseases. In fact, before antibiotics, the medical community embraced phototherapy as the state-of-the-art treatment for a variety of ills. Phototherapy is still used to today to treat conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, jaundice, mood and sleep disorders, and some cancers – and vitamin D deficiency.
Can You Make Enough Vitamin D from Indoor UV Devices?
Most people do not get enough sunshine or UVB exposure to contribute much to vitamin D status, however, there are some people who spend extended time outdoors in the mid-day sun or regularly use UVB devices, and these vitamin D inputs do contribute significantly to vitamin D status.
In the summer of 2020, we updated the GrassrootsHealth D*action Lifestyle questionnaire to include more detailed questions about indoor UV devices used, by asking those who indicated using UV equipment in the last 6 months about the type of device used, name of the device, how often it was used, and length of time per session.
Out of 9,711 participants who have answered the new set of questions, 5% indicated use of indoor UV equipment in the previous 6 months. More than half of those participants had used a device that included UVB, with 43% having used a sunbed with UVA and UVB, and 24% having used a table top UVB device. A full breakdown of which devices were used by participants can be seen in the chart below.
Among the participants using an indoor UV device and not taking vitamin D supplements, 50% had a vitamin D level of 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L) or higher, 34% had a vitamin D level between 30-39 ng/ml (75-99 nmol/L), and 16% had a vitamin D level below 30 ng/ml (75 nmol/L).
If you would like to contribute your UV and sunshine data to this study, please enroll and order your vitamin D test kit today! Use the code SunMonth23 during the month of May to get 10% off your test kit.
People who use tanning salons, specifically sunbeds that have UVB during the winter and following safe exposure guidelines, can reach physiological blood levels (>100 nmol/L or 40 ng/ml) of vitamin D without supplementation.
Dr. Samantha M. Kimball
Different Types of Indoor UVB Provide Different Vitamin D Results
A study by Kimball et al. on sunbeds and vitamin D in Canada found that individuals following standard sunbed tanning protocols in a typical tanning salon can achieve physiological levels of vitamin D when the sunbed emits UVB light in the range equivalent to outdoor summer sunshine, which most sunbed lamps do. More than 75% of all four study groups were considered vitamin D deficient (<30 ng/mL, or <75 nmol/L) at the start of the study, in the wintertime.
As shown in the chart above, vitamin D levels increased by an average of 17 ng/ml (42 nmol/L) in participants using sunbeds that used 100W and 160W fluorescent bulbs with 2.2% and 4.2% Vitamin D levels continued to increase after a base tan was achieved, all the way to the end of the 12-week study, with no adverse events or skin burns reported.
This study supports the use of artificially derived UVB light to raise serum vitamin D levels when the UV index of the sun is low, especially in the winter months of northern countries. It is important to note, as touched on in this short video “Understanding Sunbeds and Their Effect on Vitamin D,” that tanning beds may not be recommended for individuals with skin types that always burn.
Indoor UV Devices Can Provide Differing Aspects of the Sun’s Spectrum
When considering a source of artificial UV light, it is important to be aware of the type of UV or light emitted by the device, its safety, and the physiological effects it may produce, especially in terms of vitamin D. Indoor sun and UVB lamps and bulbs are effective at helping to boost vitamin D production in the skin, however, some of these lamps may only offer UVB and no UVA exposure, so vitamin D may be produced but not nitric oxide or vice versa, and the full benefits of sunshine may not be achieved. However, since UVB rays may be the most difficult for some to obtain, using an indoor UVB option in addition to outdoor sunshine may be just the right fit. If outdoor sunshine in any amount is not an option, or if you are unable to get as much exposure to sunlight as you would like, choosing an indoor UV device that produces a wider spectrum of light and energy might be a better choice and could act as your ‘sunshine supplement.’
Be Safe, Follow the Recommended Guidelines & Don’t Burn
If considering using indoor tanning options, such as sunbeds, do your research and be sure to follow safety guidelines, such as those set by Health Canada.
- Look for, read, and follow the warning and technical labels on the equipment. Labels tell you the recommended time you should be exposed each session (the time will vary, in part, depending on your skin type)
- Talk to the salon operator about your skin’s sensitivity and your ability to tan
- Do not go over the recommended time in a tanning session for your skin type
- Do not use tanning lamps more often than is prescribed for your particular skin type
- Always wear the safety eyewear that is recommended for the type of lamp you are using
- Allow at least 48 hours between each tanning session. This will give your skin a chance to repair some of the damage from the UV rays and may slow down the aging effects caused by the exposure
- Report any side effects (like sunburn or itchiness) to the salon operator. In cases of severe sunburn, see your health care provider
Be aware that certain medications and products may increase the sensitivity of the skin to UV exposure, such as some antidepressants, antibiotics, antihistamines, psoralens, antifungals, antidiabetic, oral contraceptives, tranquilizers, high blood pressure medications, and certain soaps or cosmetics. For a full list of medications and products, click here.
Practicing safe sun exposure is a natural way to increase your vitamin D levels. As reviewed above, studies have shown that you can also reach recommended vitamin D levels (>40 ng/ml or >100 nmol/L) using indoor UVB options and following time exposure guidelines for your skin type without adverse events. In fact, these options to raise vitamin D levels may even be preferred among individuals who may not respond as well to supplementation, such as those with digestive conditions or on certain medications that may inhibit absorption.
Make sure you are getting enough vitamin D!
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Learn More About the Health Benefits of Sensible Sunshine Exposure in our Sunshine eBook!
- the health benefits of sunshine
- what happens in our bodies when exposed to sunshine
- how and when to make vitamin D from sun exposure and how this is different from taking a supplement
- how to utilize sensible sun exposure to minimize the risks of sun exposure and maximize the benefits for skin and overall health
- and more…
Make Sure You Are Getting Enough Vitamin D from Sun & Supplements – Test At Home!
Having and maintaining healthy vitamin D levels and other nutrient levels can help improve your health now and for your future. Choose which additional nutrients to measure, such as your omega-3s and essential minerals including magnesium and zinc, by creating your custom home test kit today. Take steps to improve the status of each of these measurements to benefit your overall health. With measurement you can then determine how much is needed and steps to achieve your goals. You can also track your own intakes, symptoms and results to see what works best for YOU.
How Can You Use this Information for YOUR Health?
Having and maintaining healthy vitamin D and other nutrient levels can help improve your health now and for your future. Measuring is the only way to make sure you are getting enough!
STEP 1 Order your at-home blood spot test kit to measure vitamin D and other nutrients of concern to you, such as omega-3s, magnesium, essential and toxic elements (zinc, copper, selenium, lead, cadmium, mercury); include hsCRP as a marker of inflammation or HbA1c for blood sugar health
STEP 2 Answer the online questionnaire as part of the GrassrootsHealth study
STEP 3 Using our educational materials and tools (such as our dose calculators), assess your results to determine if you are in your desired target range or if actions should be taken to get there
STEP 4 After 3-6 months of implementing your changes, re-test to see if you have achieved your target level(s)