Are sunbeds safe to use during pregnancy?

Pregnant women often find that their skin is more sensitive than usual. Therefore, if you use a sunbed when you’re pregnant, your skin may be more likely to burn.

UV damage

Sunbeds give out ultraviolet (UV) rays, which is the same type of harmful radiation that's found in sunlight. Getting a tan using a sunbed is not safer than tanning in the sun. In some cases, sunbed use can be more harmful. For example, many sunbeds give out greater doses of UV rays than the midday Mediterranean sun.

Prolonged exposure to UV rays increases your risk of developing malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

UV rays can cause your skin to burn and age prematurely. They can also damage your eyes by causing problems such as irritation, conjunctivitis or cataracts, particularly if you don’t wear goggles.

Read more about sunbed safety.

Sensitive skin and pregnancy

Many women find their skin is more sensitive during pregnancy. This means your skin may be more likely to burn in the sun or if you use a sunbed.

Changing hormone levels will also make you more prone to skin pigmentation (colouration). Dark, irregular patches of skin called chloasma sometimes appear on your face. This can be a sign that your skin will react more strongly to UV rays. If you sunbathe or use a sunbed, the dark patches are likely to increase.

Direct and prolonged exposure to UV light also carries the risk of overheating for both you and your unborn baby.

Your unborn baby

There is currently no clear evidence about the effect of UV rays from sunbeds on an unborn baby.

Some studies have suggested that there may be a link between increased UV rays and a folic acid deficiency. This is because UV rays can break down folic acid.

Folic acid is very important in the development of the baby's neural system (brain and spinal cord), which is formed during the first trimester of pregnancy (weeks 1-13). You should therefore increase your folic acid intake during this period.

Fake tan

It’s generally considered safe to use fake tan creams and lotions during pregnancy.

The active ingredient in fake tan is Dihydroxyacetone (DHA). This is a non-toxic substance that reacts with cells in the outermost layer of the skin and produces a brown pigment (colour) called melanoidin. As the DHA isn’t thought to go beyond the outer layer of skin, it isn't absorbed into the body and can’t harm your baby.

It's probably best to avoid spray tans, however, because the effects of inhaling the spray are not known.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 09/06/2015

Next review due: 08/06/2017