Sunbeds for Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes the skin to become red, flaky, and crusty. It usually affects the elbows, knees, back, and scalp the most, although psoriasis can appear pretty much anywhere on the body. According to the NHS, psoriasis affects around 2% of the population. While this may not sound like much, the severity of the condition can massively affect quality of life, so finding the right treatment is vital. 

Unfortunately, psoriasis cannot be cured, and often recurs during flare ups over many years. However, there are three NHS-approved treatments for psoriasis that can help:

Topical creams: There are a number of creams and lotions that can be applied directly to affected areas to help moisturise the dry patches and reduce pain and discomfort.

Systemic treatments: For cases that do not respond to topical creams, there are some oral and injectable medications that can help minimise the severity of psoriasis.

Phototherapy: Exposure to UVB light from the sun can help to treat psoriasis. This is sparking many sufferers to ask an interesting question: will sunbeds help my psoriasis?

Phototherapy for Psoriasis

Under the NHS-approved phototherapy treatment, psoriasis sufferers are exposed to UVB light tubes which emit the exact same form of light as natural sunlight and sunbeds.

UVB light therapy is believed to help treat psoriasis in three different ways:

1. Psoriasis is an immune condition, where the immune system overreacts to triggers that most people’s body’s simply ignore. As UV light has been shown to suppress the immune system, it’s understood that UV light therapy can help to minimise symptoms. 

2. UVB light may help to decrease the speed with which the body’s cells grow and multiply with psoriasis. It’s the rapid growth of cells that causes scaling; one of the most common symptoms of psoriasis, so light therapy may help to improve skin condition.

3. Sunlight can stimulate Vitamin D production in the body, and there is growing evidence that Vitamin D can help reduce symptoms. Vitamin D deficiency is common in psoriasis sufferers, and Vitamin D creams like calcipotriol are often recommended. 

However, prescription phototherapy is not the only way to gain more exposure to beneficial UVB light. One option is to spend more time outdoors. Experts advise that psoriasis sufferers should spend 5-10 minutes in the midday sun to reduce symptoms.

But how about sunbeds? Do sunbeds help with psoriasis, too? It stands to reason that they do, as they emit the exact same type of light - ultraviolet light - as natural sunlight and medical light therapy devices. In fact, studies have concluded that sunbeds ‘represent a more convenient means to obtain ultraviolet (UV) exposure when office phototherapy is not feasible’, and it’s estimated that around half of people diagnosed with psoriasis do use - or have used - a tanning bed to treat their psoriasis symptoms. 

Ultimately, research says that the ‘use of tanning beds in the treatment of dermatologic conditions may be another useful and effective treatment for patients’. Along with psoriasis, other dermatologic conditions that could be improved through the use of sunbeds include acne, atopic dermatitis, eczema, and mycosis fungoides. 

Can Sunbeds Make Psoriasis Worse?

There are no obvious reasons why sunbeds - or any sort of UV light exposure from any source - should make psoriasis worse. However, there are some things to think about:

  • While sunbeds can help spots of dry, flaking skin caused by psoriasis, you may find that your skin is more sensitive if you’ve been applying topical treatments. It’s believed that some topical treatments often prescribed for psoriasis - such as tazarotene and coal tar - can increase skin sensitivity, making you more at risk of burning. Always talk to your doctor before tanning if using topical medications. 
  • Different tanning bulbs emit different amounts of UVA and UVB light, so it can be very difficult to predict exactly how your psoriasis will respond to the type of bulb you’ve selected. It’s always best to start off your at-home UV light therapy treatments with very short sessions to gauge how your own condition will respond to exposure. You can always build up your session time gradually if needed. 

Treating Psoriasis with Sunbeds

There is a very clear link between sunbeds and psoriasis, so if you’re searching for possible treatments to minimise your symptoms and improve quality of life, tanning is certainly an option worth considering. However, it’s always best to chat with your doctor or dermatologist to ensure that UVB light therapy is the right choice for you.