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Is Tanning Making Me Itch?

I've been itching quite a lot on the inside of my thighs, my bikini line area, stomach, and backside. I figured itching in the bikini area was just from shaving, but I've recently noticed little red bumps where it itches on my butt. Can this be happening because I've been tanning lately?
- Jessica*

Yes. Tanning booths and beds can cause people to develop a rash.

The itching and bumps you notice may be caused by too much UV light exposure. Your skin also could be sensitive to chemicals used to clean tanning beds or ingredients in cosmetics or lotions. Another less-than-pleasant possibility is you may have a skin infection from a bed that hasn't been cleaned properly. If your rash doesn't go away, if it's warm or tender, or if you have a fever, see a doctor.

Some medications can make skin more susceptible to UV light — a rash could be one sign of this. If you're taking any prescriptions (including birth control pills and acne treatments), avoid tanning and wear sun protection when you're outside.

The itching and redness is your skin's way of saying, "Stop, don't do this to me!" Just like exposure to the sun, tanning beds and booths can increase your risk of skin cancer, premature aging, and eye problems. Since a rash is probably not the kind of warm glow you're going for, find another way to get the look you want (like using a self-tanner or body makeup).

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: October 2011

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.