Navigating the tanning world can be complex, especially for individuals with diabetes. One question often asked is: Can diabetics safely use tanning beds? This article sheds light on this important question, exploring the potential risks and considerations for people with diabetes using tanning beds.

We'll dive into the effects of tanning beds on general health, investigate their specific implications for those with diabetes, and evaluate the associated risks and benefits. Additionally, we'll explore whether you can tan with a continuous glucose monitoring device.

Can Diabetics Use Tanning Beds?

Potential Risks and Benefits of Tanning Beds for Diabetics

Tanning beds, a staple in many tanning salons, offer an indoor alternative to direct sunlight exposure for achieving a tanned appearance. However, for diabetics, the decision to use tanning beds should be made carefully, considering the potential risks and benefits.

While tanning beds can provide a cosmetic benefit and even a potential source of vitamin D, these benefits must be balanced against the risks. As we've discussed, overexposure to UV radiation from tanning beds can lead to skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer. Additionally, some of the lotions and oils used to enhance the tanning process in tanning beds can potentially cause skin reactions, especially in individuals with sensitive skin or those on certain medications.

UV Light, Blood Sugar Levels, and Potential Complications

UV light exposure, whether from a tanning bed or direct sunlight, can affect blood glucose levels. Heat increases blood flow and can change how the body uses insulin, leading to potential fluctuations in blood glucose levels. For diabetics, managing these fluctuations is crucial, and any activity that makes it more challenging can be a cause for concern.

Moreover, some diabetics experience changes in skin condition, making the skin more susceptible to damage and slower to heal. Overexposure to UV light from a tanning bed can exacerbate these skin conditions, adding another layer of risk.

Expert Opinions and Research Findings

Many experts advise caution for diabetics considering the use of tanning beds. Given the potential risks of UV exposure, the American Diabetes Association does not specifically endorse using tanning beds. Furthermore, research indicates that tanning bed use can increase the risk of skin cancer, regardless of one's diabetes status.

In conclusion, while some people with diabetes may choose to use tanning beds, it's essential to understand the potential risks and consult a healthcare provider before making this decision. The best approach will always be a personalized one, taking into account an individual's overall health, their diabetes management, and their personal preferences.

Tanning Beds and General Health

What Are Tanning Beds and How Do They Work?

Tanning beds, or sunbeds, are devices that emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation to stimulate a suntan. They use several fluorescent lamps that emit UV rays similar to those produced by the sun. Users lie in these beds, and the UV rays penetrate their skin, accelerating melanin production, the pigment responsible for skin color. This process aims to create a tanned appearance even without direct sun exposure.

Potential Risks and Benefits of Using Tanning Beds

Both potential benefits and risks are associated with using tanning beds. On the positive side, UV exposure can stimulate vitamin D production, a nutrient essential for bone health and immune function. Some people also use tanning beds for cosmetic reasons, desiring the appearance of a tanned complexion.

However, the risks of tanning beds are significant and widely recognized in the medical community. Most prominently, overexposure to UV radiation is a major risk factor for skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Other risks include premature skin aging, eye damage (if proper protection isn't used), and, for some people, allergic reactions or rashes.

While some people may choose to use tanning beds despite these risks, it's important for each individual, especially those with chronic health conditions like diabetes, to weigh these potential benefits against the potential harm.

The Effects of Sun and UV Exposure on Diabetics

Effects of Sun and UV Exposure on Diabetics

Sun and UV exposure can have unique implications for individuals with diabetes. One major concern is the impact of heat and sunlight on blood glucose levels. Excessive heat can increase blood flow and alter the body's insulin requirements, potentially leading to fluctuations in blood glucose levels that could be hard to manage.

Moreover, some diabetes medications can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, increasing the risk of sunburn and other skin damage. For instance, certain oral diabetes medications cause photosensitivity, a heightened reaction to sun exposure.

Should Diabetics Avoid the Sun?

The claim that diabetics should avoid the sun stems from these potential complications. However, avoidance of the sun entirely may not be necessary or practical. Sun exposure is a natural source of vitamin D, which is crucial to overall health, including bone health and immune function.

Instead, the key is careful management and moderation. Diabetics can benefit from sun exposure but should take precautions to avoid excessive heat and sunburn. This includes wearing sunscreen, staying hydrated, and closely monitoring blood glucose levels during increased heat and sun exposure. Individuals should consult their healthcare provider for personalized guidance, as with any health-related advice.

Safety Guidelines for Diabetics Using Tanning Beds

If a diabetic decides to use a tanning bed after weighing the potential risks and benefits, there are several safety guidelines to follow. First and foremost, limiting the duration and frequency of tanning bed sessions to minimize UV exposure is important. Protective eyewear during each session is also essential to protect the eyes from UV damage.

Additionally, diabetics should monitor their blood glucose levels closely before and after tanning sessions, as heat can potentially affect insulin requirements and glucose control. Also, it's advisable to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect the skin, even though it may seem counterintuitive in a tanning bed.

Discussing Tanning Bed Use with a Healthcare Provider

Before deciding to use a tanning bed, discussing it with your healthcare provider is crucial. They can provide personalized advice based on your current health status, medications, and diabetes management plan. Be prepared to discuss your reasons for using a tanning bed, how often you plan to use it, and what precautions you intend to take.

Alternative Safer Methods for Diabetics to Get a Tan

Given the potential risks associated with tanning beds, it's worth considering safer alternatives for achieving a tanned appearance. Sunless tanning products like lotions, sprays, and mousses can provide a tanned look without UV exposure. These products contain a compound called dihydroxyacetone (DHA) that reacts with the dead cells on the skin's surface to darken the skin, simulating a tan temporarily.

However, like all products, sunless tanners should be used cautiously, and it's recommended to test the product on a small patch of skin first to ensure there's no allergic reaction.

Ultimately, the safest tan for a person with diabetes (and anyone, in fact) is natural, obtained with careful exposure to the sun, using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, and following sun safety guidelines to protect skin health.

Keep Glucose Meters, Test Strips, Insulin Pumps, and CGMs Away From the Sun

When managing diabetes, it's important to remember that the tools you use, including glucose meters, test strips, insulin pumps, and continuous glucose monitoring systems (CGMs), are sensitive to heat and sunlight. These devices and supplies should be kept from direct sunlight and high temperatures. Prolonged exposure to the sun can damage these devices and affect their accuracy and effectiveness.

For instance, heat can degrade insulin quality, leading to ineffective blood glucose control. Similarly, glucose test strips can deliver inaccurate results if stored in hot or humid conditions. CGMs, such as Dexcom devices, must be protected from excessive heat to ensure they function correctly. Always store these items in a cool, dry place, and consider using an insulated bag or case when carrying them outdoors or to the beach.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is being in the sun bad for diabetics?

Being in the sun can present extra challenges for people with diabetes. Research suggests that hot weather can lead to health issues for people with diabetes, making them more sensitive to high temperatures.

Can you tan on metformin?

Metformin is not associated with increased sun sensitivity or photosensitivity reactions. However, a rash is listed as a rare side effect of the drug, and there have been a few case reports of metformin photosensitivity reactions. Therefore, if you're on metformin and experiencing side effects after sun exposure, discussing this with your doctor is important.

Are diabetics more sensitive to heat?

Yes, people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes tend to feel the heat more than people without diabetes. This can be due to certain diabetes complications, such as blood vessel and nerve damage, affecting sweat glands and the body's ability to cool effectively.

Are Dexcom sensors affected by heat?

There's anecdotal evidence suggesting that Dexcom G6 sensors left in a hot place, like inside a car on a hot day, could affect their performance on readings or alerts.


Navigating the world of tanning as a person with diabetes can be complex. The decision to use a tanning bed is not to be taken lightly, as it involves weighing potential benefits against considerable risks. While achieving a sun-kissed glow might be desirable, it's crucial to remember the potential impact of UV exposure on skin health and blood glucose levels.

If you're a person with diabetes considering using a tanning bed, it's important to consult your healthcare provider before making a decision. They can provide personalized advice and guidance based on your overall health and diabetes management plan.

Consider safer alternatives, like sunless tanning products, which can provide a tanned appearance without the associated UV exposure. And remember, the safest tan is natural, achieved with careful exposure to sunlight while using sunscreen and adhering to sun safety guidelines.

Ultimately, the key is to make informed decisions prioritizing health and wellbeing. Always remember your health is worth more than a tan.

About the Author

Ely Fornoville

Hi, I'm Ely Fornoville, and I am the founder of Diabetic Me. Being a type 1 diabetic since 1996, I developed a passion to help people learn more about diabetes. I write about diabetes and share stories from other diabetics around the world. I currently use a Medtronic Guardian 4 CGM and a MiniMed 780G insulin pump with Humalog insulin.

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