Phototherapy is a type of light therapy that is commonly used to treat affected areas of skin for people who have psoriasis. Even though this can be a very effective way to deal with the condition, it unfortunately can also be very expensive, as well as inconvenient and time-consuming. Therefore, many people with psoriasis have been exploring similar options, such as using tanning beds, for treatment. But is this method really as effective and low-risk as actual phototherapy?
Tanning Bed Risks
Even though the National Psoriasis Foundation does not recommend using tanning beds for psoriasis treatment, there are some dermatologists who will entertain the idea under certain circumstances. First of all, it is important to know that not all tanning beds are created equally. Many tanning beds only use UVA light; however, UVB light is the only thing that will work to treat psoriasis.
It can also be difficult to manage how much exposure you are getting. When receiving phototherapy under a dermatologist’s supervision, the doctor is able to control exactly how much light you are receiving, as well as target the light to specific areas that are affected.
If you get sunburned from too much exposure in a tanning bed, this can actually enflame your psoriasis even more. Additionally, your risk for skin cancer will greatly increase when you use this method, as opposed to doctor-supervised phototherapy.
Tanning Bed Safety Tips
If you do decide to try tanning beds instead of phototherapy, there are ways to do it safely if you are careful. First, ask your dermatologist about their recommendations for you using a tanning bed. Also, check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure you’re not taking any psoriasis medications that can make your skin more sensitive to light.
Here are some things to consider in order to ensure your tanning bed use will be safe and effective:
- Make sure to find a tanning salon that is convenient, affordable, and offers UVB beds.
- Use the same tanning bed each time you visit, as this will ensure you are receiving the same dose of UVB during each exposure.
- Make sure not to burn, as this will make your psoriasis worse. Start with as low of a dose as possible—a good idea is to halve whatever the tanning bed operator recommends for your skin type.
- Try to go every day and incrementally increase your exposure with each visit.
- Use mineral oil or triamcinolone ointment in order to prevent the white scales of psoriasis from reflecting light.
- Cover your face during therapy, as the UV rays can cause more damage to the sensitive skin on your face, as well as your eyes.
- Stop when your psoriasis feels like it is under control. There is no need to continue unless your psoriasis begins to flare up again.
- Check your skin for spots that could indicate skin cancer and make sure to get any questionable spots looked at by your dermatologist.
Tanning Bed Alternatives
Besides using tanning beds or in-office phototherapy, there are other options that you could try. For example, your dermatologist can recommend a home UVB light machine. Though these can be expensive as well, it would be a one-time cost, and you would be able to treat your psoriasis from the comfort of your own home.
Additionally, the National Psoriasis Foundation endorses trying to spend a few minutes each day soaking up the real sun as a method of treatment. After making sure you aren’t taking any medications that increase your skin sensitivity, the recommendation is to spend about five to ten minutes each day around noon, and to gradually increase your exposure time as long as you aren’t burning. Also, remember to protect unaffected areas of skin with sunscreen before exposure.