As a teenager growing up in Alaska tanning in tanning beds was a normal part of life: classes, work, the gym, tanning, shower, repeat was a normal day for me. For 10 to 15 minutes I could step into a bed, warm up, and catch the most amazing emotional boost. Any given month, you could be pretty sure I had a monthly pass to Solei Tanning, conveniently just minutes away from my home.
Even as a college student in one of the sunniest cities in the nation, St George, Utah my roommate and I made sure to fit tanning in, even if it meant walking a few miles to get there.
In Salt Lake City I found myself at a gym where tanning was free of charge, as well as at my boyfriend, Landon’s, apartment. I continued, despite choosing my topic for a semester long research paper being the dangers of tanning in indoor beds. I got an A on the paper, but was failing with any internalization or application portion.
“On an average day today in the United States, more than 1 million people tan in tanning salons, seeking that perfect bronzed color. Cocktail, accelerator, intensifier, maximizer, wolf, ruva, tanorexic; there’s an entire lingo that this tanning generation speaks. Melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma; this is the lingo that dermatologists speak. The American Cancer Society lists tanning beds in its highest cancer risk category now, “carcinogenic to humans”, where tanning beds are listed among agents such as plutonium and cigarettes. Is it due to a lack of ignorance then that more than 1 million people continue to use tanning salons on an average day? The irrefutable facts are out there, easily accessible through a Google search. Within sixty seconds on the Skin Cancer Foundation’s website one can learn that indoor tanners are 74% more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors. That seventy-one percent of tanning salon patrons are girls and women aged sixteen – twenty-nine. And that the indoor tanning industry has annual estimated revenue of $5 billion…”
Because, wouldn’t you know, I was sent an amazing deal for unlimited access for an entire year at my favorite Salt Lake tanning salon, “Purchase a bottle of Black Noir, Get 1 Year VIP Tanning for Free! (a $299 value)” and I walked right on in, and bought that bottle of lotion.
Tanning in beds helped me feel confident, attractive, positive, alive and more fit. All things a female in her young twenties seeks. But then, and not to be dramatic — but to tell my story, cancer hit closer to home than I ever thought it would this past Christmas. And in that month of December, I realized I was done. I stepped into a bed once more while we visited Salt Lake again because: favorite salon, and then that was it.
I literally struggled the first few months this winter to not drop in to the tanning salon for just a “a little color.” Luckily I added it to my list of goals for 2014, and there was no way I was going to break that one a second time. I read reviews on Sephora for various self tanners, trying to find the right one for me, but couldn’t visualize how it would ever replace tanning in a bed. When tanning, the bulbs shine on ever square inch of you. I felt stressed about how a self tanner would work: do I just apply it to my arms? my chest? but then my neck would be too white?
I ended up falling in love with St. Tropez and realized that it could replace tanning beds for me. A comparison of the mousses will follow, but most of all I want you to find what works for you. I feel strongly that if you’re already shelling money for tanning that it’s ok to find a quality self tanner that you love. Shop around, read reviews, and don’t be afraid to try out a few. My next step will be to make an appointment with a dermatologist and make sure I didn’t do any real damage that past 5 years, because I’ve got some goals to stick to.
Most of all, I hope that we can work to see past the fun side of products and lotions, and get to the heart of it. Why are so many girls still using tanning beds, and why do some of us still fight to stop, despite knowing better? Though finding a great self tanner has helped, changes had to happen internally as well. I have learned to find confidence from other sources, real sources. I’ve worked on trying to be in great shape, not just look like it because of a tan. Most of all, I have seen the pain that comes from life changing news about your health and I realized that I wanted to do more to proactive about my health — to find the gaps where I was making excuses, and to try and be a little better.