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Indoor Tanning Can Burn Your Eyeballs, Study Says

2 minute read

If you’re prone to sporting a suspiciously unseasonal glow, there’s new data to make you reconsider your next indoor tan.

According to a new research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine, thousands of people each year go to emergency rooms for tanning salon-related injuries. The researchers found that about 3,200 such injuries were treated each year in U.S. emergency departments from 2003-2012—mostly for white women between ages 18-24.

The most common types of injuries were skin burns, eye injuries, muscle and bone injuries and passing out. Skin burns, which accounted for 80% of injuries, were predictably the most common. Almost 10% of injuries were due to fainting; several people described falling asleep while tanning. And about 6% of the injuries were on the eyes—mostly eye burns from excessive UV exposure.

“We saw plenty of eye injuries,” says Gery Guy, Jr., PhD, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This is concerning because it’s not only an acute injury…but it also puts you at risk for certain conditions down the road, like cataracts or eye melanoma.” The team also noted other sources for eye injuries, like when tanning bulbs broke and shattered into people’s eyes, Guy adds.

Indoor tanning has dropped in popularity since 2003, when injuries numbered in the 6,000s. Many studies have emerged since then that show a link between tanning devices and skin cancer, and 11 states now restrict tanning among minors under age 18, Guy says. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration reclassified indoor tanning devices from a Class I device, which poses minimal risk, to a riskier Class II device.

“It’s important to point out that 3,000 injuries reporting to an emergency room may not be a huge number, considering the millions of people who continue to indoor tan,” Guy says. “But it’s important to realize that one visit to an emergency room from indoor tanning is too many, given that indoor tanning devices should be avoided.” So much for a healthy glow.

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Write to Mandy Oaklander at mandy.oaklander@time.com