Can You Use a Tanning Bed for Psoriasis Treatment?

Medically reviewed by Susan Bard, MD

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that affects the skin by causing red, raised patches of flaky skin. There is no cure for psoriasis but there are several treatment options and lifestyle changes that can help minimize the symptoms. One treatment option is phototherapy, which uses light to treat psoriasis skin symptoms. Tanning beds do not offer the same benefits.

This article will cover the different types of phototherapy, why tanning beds are not the best option for psoriasis, and tanning risks.

<p>enigma_images / Getty Images</p>

enigma_images / Getty Images

Can a Tanning Bed Treat Psoriasis?

Many healthcare providers do not support the use of tanning beds for psoriasis treatment. Tanning beds increase the risk of skin cancer. In fact, squamous cell carcinoma is increased by 58% and basal cell carcinoma is increased by 24%.

Tanning bed users also run the risk of developing an addiction to tanning, a very real condition that was found in those who used tanning beds to self-treat their psoriasis.

People with psoriasis may seek out tanning beds because one psoriasis treatment is phototherapy with ultraviolet B (UVB) light. UVB light is present in natural sunlight and in tanning beds. However, tanning beds mostly emit ultraviolet A (UVA) light.

Treating psoriasis with UVA light is not very effective unless it is used with psoralens, a light-sensitizing agent.

Healthcare providers will recommend treatments that have proven results. These treatments may include:

  • Phototherapy: The use of natural or artificial light that slows skin cell growth

  • Topical treatments: Creams or ointments that are applied to the skin to slow down skin cell growth and reduce inflammation

  • Systemic medications: Prescription drugs that are given through an intravenous (IV), injection or as an oral medication. Each type works a little bit differently in managing psoriasis.

Sunlight vs. Phototherapy

When looking at psoriasis treatment options sunlight and phototherapy are two choices that appear to be very similar but are very different.

Sunlight can treat psoriasis since it has both UVA and UVB, most phototherapy treatments only use UVB. Sunlight is not as effective as prescription phototherapy but is free and accessible to everyone. People who use sunlight for psoriasis need to be careful to avoid sunburns or excess sun time as this can trigger additional psoriasis flare-ups.

Below are the different types of phototherapy and how they treat psoriasis.

UVB Phototherapy

UVB phototherapy uses UVB light to slow the growth of skin cells affected by psoriasis. It is used for people with psoriasis lesions covering at least 10% of the body. Treatment is done in a healthcare provider's office or at home.

Phototherapy is performed by using traditional UV bulbs or LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs. It is typically done three times per week for three months.


"PUVA" stands for "psoralen" and "ultraviolet A." It is a treatment that uses UVA light in combination with psoralens. Psoralens are substances added to medications that allow the skin to absorb more UVA. It can be given orally or topically.

When someone has PUVA treatment they will be given the psoralen and then have UVA light treatment. Studies have found it to be more effective than UVB phototherapy for people with palmoplantar pustular psoriasis.

Laser Therapy

Psoriasis treatment with laser therapy is often done by using the excimer laser. This laser uses a high-intensity UVB beam. Its greatest benefit is that it can focus on the affected skin and spare the surrounding skin. It is used for mild to moderate psoriasis and is a good choice for scalp psoriasis.

Do Tanning Beds Make Psoriasis Worse?

Tanning beds can damage skin and make psoriasis worse. UV radiation causes aging and increases the risk of skin cancer.

A sunburn from a tanning bed is a psoriasis trigger. This can cause more plaques to form and worsen psoriasis.

Some studies have discussed the use of tanning beds for people who do not have access to other modes of phototherapy. There are serious risks associated with tanning bed use. Talk to a healthcare provider to weigh the risks and benefits of tanning beds and to determine the best treatment route.

Tanning Risks

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared indoor tanning a carcinogenic. There are several risks associated with tanning. They include:


Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes raised skin plaques. While there currently is no known cure for the condition there are several treatment options available. One treatment is phototherapy, which uses light to reduce the production of skin cells that cause psoriasis plaques.

Phototherapy is available in many different forms, one of which is tanning beds. This option carries several serious risks like skin cancer and is not a sound treatment option. Talk to a healthcare provider to find the best way to treat psoriasis symptoms.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.