Q&A: Physician responds to Kim Kardashian using tanning booth to help psoriasis

Key takeaways:

  • After releasing a viral video that garnered negative attention, Kim Kardashian said she uses her tanning bed for her psoriasis.
  • Physician Azza Halim, MD, explains why this practice is dangerous.

When Kim Kardashian recently claimed that her tanning booth soothes her psoriasis, the star received backlash from practitioners and fans alike.

It started on Jan. 18, when Kardashian took advantage of the “of course” social media trend to give fans a tour of her luxurious office featuring a wall decorated with her magazine covers, a 3D model of her brain and a glam room with a custom-measured mannequin. She also gave a special cameo of her tanning booth, which sparked immense controversy.

When Kim Kardashian recently claimed that her tanning booth soothes her psoriasis, the star received backlash from practitioners and fans alike.
While many viewers pointed out that tanning booths cause skin cancer, Kardashian defended herself on social media by saying, “I have psoriasis and it really helps when it’s bad. But I don’t use it too often.”

Azza Halim

Kardashian was diagnosed with psoriasis in 2011 and while the star claims that the tanning bed helps her psoriasis flares, the National Psoriasis Foundation discourages the therapeutic use of tanning beds, stating this practice “does not support the use of indoor tanning beds as a substitute for phototherapy performed with a prescription and under a health care provider’s supervision.”

In the wake of this controversy, Azza Halim, MD, a board certified, multi-specialist physician with a focus in aesthetic and regenerative medicine, spoke to Healio about the dangers of using tanning beds as a therapy for psoriasis.

Healio: Do tanning beds help calm psoriasis flares?

Halim: Photo/light therapy is an age-old treatment approach for psoriasis, yet it is still not recommended to self-treat with tanning beds. Tanning beds cause sunburn and, although the light exposure may help calm down flare-ups, the risk of skin cancer and photodamage is a concern.

Many may turn to tanning beds for summer glow along with treating their psoriasis but, as we all know, psoriasis is an immune condition and using [ultraviolet B] light can decrease the cell turnover associated. That being said, such treatments should be under the supervision of a qualified medical professional.

Another treatment option is boosting one’s vitamin D level which often is depleted in such conditions. Therefore, enhancing vitamin D levels as well as vitamin D creams are beneficial.

Healio: Should patients with psoriasis use tanning beds?

Halim: Tanning beds can actually make things worse if it triggers a sunburn or photodamage. Furthermore, despite some patients thinking tanning beds help their flare-up, we know phototherapy UVB is used as a treatment option, whereas tanning beds are [ultraviolet A], not UVB. Many patients are not aware of this difference.

Therefore, I do not recommend tanning beds as treatment options. For UVA to be utilized, one needs to add a light-sensitizing medication first. The reason natural sunlight in the summer is more beneficial for patients with psoriasis is that the sun emits both UVA and UVB. However, one must still avoid photodamage and always use sun protection.

Healio: What are healthy alternatives to tanning booths for calming psoriasis flares in the winter?

Halim: As we know, cold dry winter months can dry out skin and add to a psoriasis flare-up. After showering or cleansing, patients should always moisturize with an emollient to protect the skin as well apply vitamin D cream and add a topical retinoid.

There are also key triggers to flare-ups that patients should avoid including scratching, alcohol consumption and stress.

If interested, patients can also consider professional phototherapy.


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