To help set the record straight, we asked two board-certified dermatologists to weigh in on psoriasis treatment and the risks of using tanning beds.

What is psoriasis?

What exactly is psoriasis? According to Joshua Zeichner, MD, board-certified dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital, it’s an inflammatory condition where your immune cells essentially become “angry at your skin.” “It leads to characteristic red, scaly plaques that typically occur on the elbows, knees, and scalp,” he says. “With more severe cases ,it can affect any part of the body.”

Can tanning beds help treat psoriasis?

The short answer is no. “Tanning beds should never be used to treat psoriasis; frankly, they should just never be used,” Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of New York City’s Mudgil Dermatology, tells Glamour, and Dr. Zeichner agrees.

“I do not recommend that someone with psoriasis go to a regular tanning bed to treat their skin,” he says. “Most tanning beds contain UVA rays that penetrate deep into the skin and are directly associated with the development of skin cancers and premature skin aging.”

This is especially important if you’re young. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, indoor tanning bed use before the age of 35 puts you at a 75% increased risk of developing life-threatening melanoma. According to Dr. Mudgil, exposure to tanning bed UV rays significantly increases one’s risk for developing skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. “They will also age your skin tremendously,” he adds.

Why do people think tanning beds can treat psoriasis?

There’s an explanation for the confusion. According to Dr. Mugdil, certain wavelengths of ultraviolet (UV) light, under the direction of a board-certified dermatologist, can be used to safely and effectively treat psoriasis. However, this UV phototherapy is totally different from the light used in tanning beds, which “emit very dangerous ultraviolet rays at high energies that can significantly increase one’s risk for developing skin cancer.”

“Phototherapy, which we use in the office, is a specialized wavelength known as narrowband UV light,” says Dr. Zeichner. “This includes light from 311 to 313 narrow band, which falls under the UVB (ultraviolet B) spectrum. This narrow UVB light is considered to be safer than sunlight.” Tanning bed lights, on the other hand, emit UVA (or ultraviolet A) rays, which are linked to skin aging and cancer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

How can you safely treat psoriasis?

“There are many safe ways to treat psoriasis,” Dr. Mudgil says. “There are lasers, phototherapy (which uses safe wavelengths of UV light), and injectable immunologic based treatments.”

Dr. Zeichner also suggests opting for topical psoriasis treatments, such as cortisone and non-cortisone creams, both of which are available either over-the-counter or by prescription. “They can be very effective for localized cases,” he says. “From more moderate to severe psoriasis, systemic medications are available by prescription, either as a pill or by injection.”



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