It's been a big week for Kim Kardashian. After announcing her SKKN brand is (at last!) expanding into color cosmetics, she took fans on a tour of the company's office via TikTok. In the process, she shared an even bigger beauty surprise: In the year 2024, the 43-year-old owns an actual, real life tanning bed.
While tanning beds were a major thing in the early 2000s, it's well documented that they're not good for our health. In fact, UV tanning beds were classified as Class 1 human carcinogens by the World Health Organization as far back as 2009, meaning they're proven to cause cancer. With that being said, fans were shocked when Kardashian showed off her personal bed—causing her to share an update on why she keeps it around.
"I have psoriasis and it really helps when it’s bad. But I don’t use it too often," the SKIMS founder wrote via X on Friday, January 19.
Phototherapy, or light therapy, is commonly prescribed to treat psoriasis. According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King, the treatment works by inhibiting both the proliferation of skin cells and parts of the immune system that are active in psoriasis. While the National Psoriasis Association does not support the use of indoor tanning beds as a substitute for phototherapy, beds with UVB bulbs are still a common fixture in the psoriasis community. Dr. Robert Finney, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and founder of Soho Skin and Hair Restoration, clued us in on the science—and issues—behind this practice.
"UV light in tanning beds definitely helps for psoriasis. But tanning beds also have all of the harmful wavelengths that contribute to not only skin aging, but most importantly skin cancer. When dermatologists recommend light therapy for psoriasis and other skin conditions, we use 'narrowband UV-B'—never straight up tanning beds," the doctor tells Marie Claire. "Basically, studies found that utilizing a very specific band of light in the UV-B spectrum is effective at treating skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis without triggering the detrimental DNA damage that leads to skin cancer. So, she is throwing a little spin on a bad choice."
Unfortunately, both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer and photoaging. As Dr. King says, this is why there's no such thing as a healthy tan. While UVA penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB and is the dominant tanning ray, UVB is "the main cause of sunburn and plays a key role in the development of skin cancer and a contributory role in tanning and photoaging."
"We don't generally tell people to just go to a tanning salon because medical phototherapy is much more specific and regulated so the minimum amount of UV radiation is given to be effective, without burning the skin," adds Dr. King. "Risks versus benefits must always be considered when deciding on a treatment. Just as medications have potential side effects, so does phototherapy—primarily premature aging of the skin and increased risk for skin cancers. I think it's a better option for psoriasis patients who have more melanin in their skin and who do not already have significant sun damage."
Kardashian's initial diagnosis was broadcast during a 2011 episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. In the years since, she's been extremely open about her struggles with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, posting selfies during flare-ups and even penning an op-ed for her sister Kourtney Kardashian's POOSH wellness website on the subject.
"It’s been 13 years since I experienced my first psoriasis flare-up. My journey has been very different from my mom’s, but I see so many similarities as well. She had it in her scalp and all over her body, and I’d see it all the time and remember her going to the tanning salon to try and ease it," she wrote in the essay.
Despite the reality icon's experience, Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York, urges fans with the condition to stay away from the salon.
"Kim Kardashian is setting a dangerous example by suggesting that going into a tanning bed is the right way to treat psoriasis. Not only will it increase your risk of skin cancer, it will also accelerate skin aging, causing wrinkles, sagging skin, and uneven tone—and uses primarily UVA to radiate skin and trigger tanning," shares the doctor. "Medicine has already evolved and accelerated in a way that we can manipulate the sun’s wavelengths and use it safely to treat skin diseases that we know respond to sunlight, but without increasing our risk of skin cancer, and damaging the skin as a side effect. As a dermatologist, I would absolutely 100 percent recommend safe phototherapy to any patient who has been battling challenging psoriasis. I would never, never recommend that a patient step into a tanning bed, or lay out in the sun, in an effort to treat their skin disease, knowing that they’re only trading it in for the development of another, potentially life-threatening condition."
While Dr. Nazarian, like Kardashian and the rest of us, is loving the "of course" TikTok trend—she suggests we "try to stay away from developing life-threatening skin cancer" in the process:
“I’m a board-certified dermatologist, of course I’m going to have to debunk a celebrity’s awful skincare recommendations online."