“Being pale makes me feel ugly.”
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, almost 70 percent of people who use tanning salons are Caucasian girls and young women. Because of that, rates of melanoma is increasing faster in women between the ages of 15 through 29 than in their male peers. It is estimated that the 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year are caused by tanning beds.
Despite this, 7.8 million women still tan indoors. I spoke with a 27-year-old woman in New York City who is Caucasian and has a naturally tan complexion, yet still visits tanning salons once every two to three weeks. She wishes to remain anonymous. Here’s what she had to say about why she tans.
The first time I used a tanning bed was in high school. I was probably 17 or 18. I wanted a tan before prom or some kind of dance. I remember my mom took my sister and me to the tanning salon, and since she was tanning with us, I didn’t think it was bad. There wasn’t as much information back then about how bad tanning beds are for you, so I didn’t think much of it.
When I was away at college, I didn’t really go tanning because there wasn’t a salon on my campus, and I would never go out of my way to get a tan. I only tan when it’s convenient for me. If I got pale, I would just wear a lot more makeup. That’s what I like about tanning. I feel like I don’t need to wear as much makeup when I’m tan, and I don’t have to use as much bronzer or cover-up because it’s like having cover-up on already.
I like the way I look when I’m tan, and I feel more attractive. I also think it makes my skin look better. I’ve noticed it clears up any acne that I have since it dries out your skin, and my pimples start to clear up after I’ve been to a tanning bed. I don’t know if that’s accurate or has any scientific proof to back that up; I’ve just noticed it on my own.
My body also looks more toned when I’m tan, so I’ll go tanning more often right before I go on vacation to the beach or somewhere I’ll be wearing less clothing. Normally, I’ll go to the salon once every two or three weeks, but right before a special occasion, like a vacation or a big event, I’ll go two times the week before.
I use tanning beds that you lie down in called S Class. They’re super strong and I only use them for 12 minutes at a time. Well, it’s 12 minutes and then an additional 3 minutes just on your face. I prefer that bed because it’s one of the strongest, so you don’t have to go to the salon as frequently. Even if you go one time, your tan will last a week or two versus the lower-level beds where you barely see a difference. I don’t burn that easily, but usually when I leave, my face is red. I think it’s because of the heat because it’s so hot in that bed. It goes away after a day or so.
Being pale makes me feel ugly. I look sickly and ghostly. My skin gets a yellow tone when I’m pale, so if I get to that point, I’ll make an effort to go to the salon every two weeks instead of every three.
When I’m tan, I feel more confident. I get compliments from my friends, guys and girls. They’ll say things like, “How are you always so tan?” or, “I’m so jealous,” or, “Are you naturally that skin color?” I’ll tell my close friends I use tanning salons if they ask (they usually yell at me for it) but if it’s someone I hardly know, I don’t admit to tanning because I don’t want them to judge me. Especially if it’s my boss or someone superior to me, or if I’ve heard them talk badly about people using tanning beds in the past.
My coworker once told me that I look too tan for winter, or at least in comparison to how everyone else looks in the winter. I told her I didn’t really care because I don’t really care that she thinks I look too tan. I’d rather look good than be pale and look the same color as everyone else. I also use tanning beds consistently, so I feel like it’s not noticeable that I go to tanning salons. The way I look in the winter isn’t too different from how I look in the summer.
I’m familiar with the dangers of using tanning beds. I know it can cause skin cancer, wrinkles, and eye problems, but it doesn’t really interest me to read more about it. If I scroll through Facebook and see an article about it, I won’t click on it and read more because it doesn’t really matter. I’m still going to go anyway. I haven’t noticed a change in the way my skin looks. I haven’t noticed wrinkles yet, knock on wood. And I feel like if it’s still legal, then it can’t be that bad for you. A lot of things are bad for you. A lot of things cause cancer. But lying in the sun is just as bad for you. If I’m still going to lie on the beach in the summer, what’s the difference between that and tanning beds? It pisses me off when people tell me it’s bad for me because obviously I know that. It’s just an annoying buzz in my ear at this point. That’s why I avoid telling people.
I have naturally dark skin. I know people with pale skin have a higher chance of getting skin cancer, so that’s another thing that comforts me. My mom doesn’t use tanning beds anymore and lectures me for still going. But my mom used to lay out with foil and baby oil to attract the sun, and she doesn’t have any wrinkles.
I have no family history of skin cancer. I think that’s another reason why I’m not too concerned. When you get old, you’re going to look worse anyway, so you might as well try to look as good as you can while you’re young. And to me, that means being tan.
I quit going to salons for a month and a half last winter because I was trying to be better about it (and I probably just didn’t like making the trek in the cold), but I started going again because I had a vacation coming up and wanted to look good in a bathing suit. I tried spray tanning one time, but it turned out orange and only lasted, like, two showers. It was also expensive. It cost $75 for one time, and I can get seven tanning bed session for $150.
I’ve only recently started noticing sun spots on my chest, but I think that’s from getting burned in the real sun, not tanning beds. I’ve never been to the dermatologist, so I haven’t gotten them checked out. Maybe one day if I go to the dermatologist, and she or he tells me I have a cancerous spot, I’ll stop going to tanning salons. Until then, I’m gonna keep doing my thing.
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