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List of Medications That Interfere With the Tanning Bed

Updated July 18, 2017

Some people use tanning beds to achieve glowing skin, but tanning beds aren't safe for everyone. If you take medicine, you may be at an increased risk for sunburns and skin cancer due to photosensitivity caused by some drugs. Photosensitivity is an abnormally heightened reaction of the skin to sunlight and artificial ultraviolet light, such as that used in tanning beds. It is important to know what medications increase the danger of tanning beds.

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Many antibiotics list photosensitivity as a common adverse reaction and come with warnings against the use of tanning beds while on antibiotic therapy. Tetracycline antibiotics, such as tetracycline, doxycycline and minocycline, cause light sensitivity in some people. Sulfonamide antibiotics, including Bactrim, Septra and other sulfa brands, also increase your risk of sunburn and skin cancer due to increased photosensitivity. You may experience severe sunburns, red rashes and widespread redness due to drug-induced photosensitivity. In severe cases, blisters that resemble sun poison may occur. Photosensitive reactions often occur within 24 hours of combining photosensitive medications with tanning light exposure. If your physician prescribes an antibiotic for you, ask if tanning is safe while you are taking the medicine.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are commonly used for arthritis, back pain and chronic joint pain associated with autoimmune disorders. NSAIDS treat the pain, stiffness and inflammation from these disorders without the side effects of oral steroids. There are many NSAIDs, but prescription naproxen and piroxicam cause a greater risk of light sensitivity. Naproxen is also sold over the counter under several brand names to treat pain, swelling, menstrual cramps and inflammation. The naproxen sold in stores is a lower strength than prescription naproxen, but you can still have a reaction to ultraviolet light. If prescribed an NSAID, ask your doctor if you can safely use a tanning bed.

Cardiac Medications

Physicians often treat cardiac conditions with a variety of medications, including blood pressure medicines, diuretics and anti-arrhythmia medicines. Diuretics prescribed under the generic names furosemide and hydrochlorothiazide are often ordered for cardiac conditions, but both medications commonly cause heat sensitivity and photosensitivity to ultraviolet light. Other heart medications that can interfere with tanning are the prescription drugs timolol, amiodarone and quinidine, which are prescribed for arrhythmias and blood pressure control. Talk to your pharmacist about cardiac medications and sun sensitivity. In addition, check the information leaflet that comes with your medicine for photosensitivity warnings.


Dermatologists prescribe oral and topical retinoids to treat acne, wrinkles and certain skin disorders. Common retinoids include acitretin, tazarotene and tretinoin-based products. Tretinoin is a derivative of vitamin A and a popular ingredient in most retinoid medications. Tretinoin works by irritating the skin to promote new cell growth, resulting in fewer wrinkles, smoother skin and fewer breakouts. Limit your exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet light while using retinoids, because they increase your chance of severe sunburn and heat rash. Speak to your dermatologist before combining retinoid medications and use of tanning beds.

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About the Author

Roseanne Omalacy became a published author and freelance writer in 2006. She is the author of several novels and has been published with Literary Partners Group, Alyson Publishing and "Scarlet Magazine." She is a Pittsburgh health and relationships columnist, holds a bachelor's degree in nursing from Pennsylvania State University and has over 15 years of nursing experience.

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