Could there be more to a chronic tanner's addiction than the allure of honey-colored skin? Researchers at Wake Forest University report that habitual tanners may be drawn to tanning salons because the ultraviolet light produces a "relaxing" effect. Their study is published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. "I ask my patients who come in with mottled, rubbery skin, 'Why are you doing this?' " said Dr. Steven Feldman, a dermatologist at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center who led the research. "They say, 'Doctor, because it just feels so good.' "
Feldman and his investigators recruited 14 frequent tanners -- or people who said they used tanning beds eight to 15 times a month. Most of the study subjects were women, from ages 18 to 34. Twice a week for six weeks, they tanned in two different beds; one day a week, they chose which tanning bed to use.
The beds were identical, except that one emitted UV light and the other didn't. When they had a choice of beds, tanners selected the bed that exposed them to UV light 95% of the time. Feldman says people preferred the UV bed because UV light releases endorphins in skin cells that can help relieve pain.