It's an important distinction between the East and the West, where the former find 'darker skin' as opposed to the former who like getting fairer. While tanning booths are prevalent in the United States, a rather humorous trend has emerged in my country India, where a pharmaceutical company known as Emami first released a product known as 'Fair and Lovely' which not only became popular amongst women but also men, and this was much before the invasion of the multinational brands that we're bombarded with these days.
With a little market research and Emami released another product known as 'Fair and Handsome' which some of the younger chaps took a liking towards, and this product has remained popular amongst the general population.
As embarrassing as this is, in a country that continues to embrace 'fairness' (pun intended) much like the United States began this almost two decades ago, most folks (both men and women) from my generation currently in our 30s, who have found that balance between adopting certain Western values and the Indian way of life that we've grown up in, find this humorously unmanly and just as bizarre as much as tanning booths continues to mean to us as a country of 'brown people'.
What's similar however is that both of them are considered cosmetic benefits and it only goes to show what different cultures perceive to be a symbol of beauty.
In a country where millions of people revere and worship the Sun (known as 'Surya') as a father-like figure, it is strange that people forget that the exposure of our skin to the sun has its obvious benefits as well as opposed to just looking fairer than ever, using products that cannot necessarily be considered completely natural.
Pros/ Cons – The tanning booth vs. Sun
Pro/ Con 1
The UV radiation from the sun emits both UVA and UVB radiation but with tanning booths/ beds, the percentage of both types of UV radiation favors UVA radiation which is emitted at about 95% of the total radiation while UVB is about a mere 3% of the total radiation.
Experts say that UVA radiation is far more harmful to contracting melanoma (red alert for those who prefer tanning beds), which is the deadliest form of skin cancer apart from contracting cataract since the power of the UV rays are 100 times stronger than that of the sun. One benefit from this is that one can save time when getting a tan, which really defeats the purpose of getting one in the first place.
Round one belongs to those who'd like to strut their 'stuff on the beach'.
Pro/ Con 2
Another way by which tanning booths can be harmful can only be described by this video: Blonde in tanning bed
A normal day out in the sun, no matter how hot, always produces better results than in the video. So, for all practical purposes, round two belongs to the folks who would use every excuse in the book to get out and 'play', while blaming it on a 'sunny disposition'.
Pro/ Con 3
When it comes to the health benefits, since both methods produce Vitamin D for the body, one can't necessarily say that one method is better. Another angle to these benefits are that sunlight is free but tanning booths aren't, and depending on your bank balance and how much you can spend in order to get a 'healthy tan' (which again is a myth), the former is better idea.
The World Health Organization clearly states that getting a sun tan is far better than using the option of the tanning booth. Since UVB rays are 15 times less potent than the UVA rays of tanning beds, the risk for disease and side effects are much lesser from the sun provided you use a good sunscreen lotion with an spf above 15. And what's more, you get to chill out at the beach or in your backyard with a book or with your friends doing it the old fashioned 'natural' way…