What’s Trending This Week? Tanning Beds

4 May

Come on, this is not attractive!

So if you haven’t heard, there’s all this drama over this mom who supposedly took her 5-year old daughter to a tanning salon and now faces child endangerment charges.  This has brought the tanning industry people and the doctors out in full force resulting in face offs in the news.  Today’s post is going to focus on tanning beds and how it does  impact your health.  As a note, when I refer to tanning I’m referring to both the bed and beach type!

Tanning beds are dangerous for both your looks and your health!

As the summer months rapidly approach many people (young and old, boys and girls) flock to the tanning beds to “get their bronze on”.  In case you live under a rock, a tanning bed is a casket-looking device with UV bulbs lining all sides of the inside.  One lays flat on the bed for a predetermined amount of time and intensity a few times a week to get that sun-kissed look.  The pro-bed folks say that it is just as safe as tanning in the sun, even claiming it’s actually safer because “an expert” examines your skin and gives you a skin rating, based on burn-ability. They then set the intensity and time to reflect that and then you slowly build up endurance as it were until you reach your preferred tan amount.  In order understand how tanning (in or out of bed) is harmful to your skin and health, you need to understand just what that sun-kissed look really means!

Pick a cancer, any cancer!

When your body burns or tans it’s a reaction by your cells to the sun.  If you’re as red as a lobster, congratulations you’ve just killed your skin cells.  As a result, when your burn finally peels away, the new skin cells will be slightly darker than the ones you just burned off.  It is your body’s way of protecting itself.  The pigment of you skin cells are caused by melanin and the amount your body produces really depends on genetics, so that pretty much dictates how your skin is going to react.

For example, I’m descended from the vikings of northern Europe, as a result I’m extremely fair skinned and I don’t get tan; I burn, peel, and return to my same paleness.  If I burn enough, I will sometimes see a hint of color, but it’s not worth it to me.  Plus it’s painful as anything to be burned, no thank you! I’ve embraced my porcelain skin and I do everything I can to protect it.

My ancestors were further from the harsh effects of the sun which others experienced near the equator, as a result we have whiter skin.  People down near the equator (think Mexico, Africa, Southern Europe) were exposed to the harshest rays of the sun, and as a result over the many eons of evolution, their skin became darker to protect their skin from the sun.  Now I don’t know who went which way.  But,  since rumor has it we all found our beginnings in Africa, I imagine that everyone started off dark and grew progressively lighter the farther away people moved away from the equator.

High-bred ladies did not relax in the sunshine without proper protection for their fair features.

Our genes explain why my sisters (equally fair skinned) can spend hours trying to get a tan and never get as dark as our neighbor, who is Italian, is during the winter months. I swear that girl walks by a window and gets darker!  It’s funny that society now dictates that in order to be beautiful you have to be rail-thin and bronze, but back in the old days the plumper and whiter you were the better, because hey it meant you were rich.  You were never for want of food and you didn’t have to be outside all day working in the fields.  The girls of that era actually prided themselves on their porcelain skin and went above and beyond to protect it (think parasols and long gloves).  That’s what I’m going with, I’m a descendent of the high-breds! ha, just kidding, but I have a serious point, trends change and don’t feel you are any less beautiful just because you don’t fit the mold.  But I digress…

So if you skin begins to change color from it’s norm, you are damaging your skin and even damaging it a little can have dire consequences.  On the superficial side, excessive tanning (or even a little) causes your skin to break down prematurely.  You’re going to get wrinkles and the skin is going to start to sag.  You know that weathered leather look? Well that’s never attractive and it’s what you’re going to look like if you keep up with the tanning. The collagen and elasticity are going to break down and that’s the stuff that keeps you skin looking tight, firm, and young.  Oh and don’t forget about the unsightly brown spots you’re going to get.

So there’s the superficial stuff, but on the serious health side, too much UV exposure (regardless of where it comes from) causes CANCER! You’re not going to hear anyone disagree with this statement.  Although what you will hear from industry supporters is that it’s the same UVA/UVB rays as you get from the sun,

Do you really want to look like her when you get older?

which is true, but the difference is that the beds are much more intense and way above the “safe” limits (no matter what they say).  UV rays are known carcinogens, which means they are known to cause caner (just like cigs).  In fact, indoor UV tanners are 74% more likely to develop melanoma (the super deadly kind) than those who have never tanned indoors.  New research has shown that those who make just 4visits to a tanning salon per year increases their risk for melanoma by 11%, and their risk for the two most common forms of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, by 15%.  “Your risk of developing melanoma increases after just one blistering sunburn. Squamous cell cancer increases based on your lifetime exposure to UV rays. Basal cell carcinoma risk increases based on the combination of intense sun exposure and lifetime exposure to UV radiation.” (Thanks Dr. Oz) You get UV rays from both the bed and sun!  Every time you burn your skin (or tan it) you’re damaging the cells’ DNA just ever so slightly, that eventually it’s just enough to cause the cells to mutate and voila! hello cancer.

Did I scare you? Good.  Now here’s how to save your skin (and quite possibly your life).

Sunscreen is your best friend

Here’s the easiest piece…run, don’t walk away from tanning salons.  That is the fastest and cheapest way to save your life (tanning beds aren’t cheap!).  Next? When you’re at the beach (or pool or wherever outside) wear sunscreen (we’re talking at least SPF 45 here people).  Reapply ever 2 hours (more if you’re in and out of the water).  Wear a hat!  You can burn your scalp and not even realize it!  Wear clothes over your swimsuit when not in the water.  If you’re spending a whole day at the beach bring some sort of umbrella to sit under for the day.  Double bonus: this also reduces your risk of sun/heat stroke.

Protecting your skin doesn’t mean just on the days that you are planning on being outside, even the little bit you get on a daily basis can add up over time and slowly damage your skin.  So make sure you use body lotion every day with at least SPF 15. I love Eurcerin Daily Lotion with SPF 15.  I put on it every morning when I get out of the shower! Besides, moisturized skin is happy skin!  I also use a face lotion with SPF built-in. I love Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15.  This way every day I know that my skin is protected from harmful rays!

So let’s say you just can’t give up that glowing, just been to the beach look?  There are many non-UV ways to appear tan.  Jergen’s Natural Glow and others make your skin appear more tanned.  You can also get an airbrush tan, it’s a temporary look that won’t leave you wrinkled.

In the end, as with everything, you skin is yours and only you can decide what is best for you, but in 40 years how do you want to look? But more importantly, do you want to be above or below ground?


One Response to “What’s Trending This Week? Tanning Beds”

  1. Fern Brazda September 27, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    Great blog on the dangers of tanning beds! Sunless tanners can give you the same bronze without the dangers of damaging your skin!

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