During the fall season, a lot of people probably aren't laying out in the sun. However, even though more than eighty percent of teens know that UV rays cause skin cancer, most still admit to tanning. While this is worrisome to parents, educators, doctors and groups like the Association of Dermatologists, I think it is also very interesting. In my experience, teens are smart people. Why, then do they find it logical to do something that has a high probability of killing them? Sunburning as a young person and having more than five sunburns over the period of a lifetime phenomenally increases the chances of getting skin cancer. But sunburns aren't the only thing that causes skin cancer, just being exposed to too much UV light even in the winter or on a cloudy day or while swimming can cause it as well.
But teens know this. Teens know that they should wear sunscreen every day outside. They know it should be re-applied after swimming. They know that just any old plain sunglasses won’t protect their eyes – they need to make sure that the sunglasses block UV rays. Teens know about the dangers of tanning beds and sunbathing. And they have heard the lecture about wearing sunhats.
But they still tan.
Some teens even get addicted to tanning. A new phenomenon is occurring with teenagers – tanning too much. It is actually a little bit like an eating disorder because the teen cannot tell by looking in the mirror that he or she is tan enough – or even too tan. They still go back to sunbathing or going under the light at their local salon and tan again. If this is the case, individuals with this type of a problem need professional help just the same as having an eating disorder.
But this brings me back to the conundrum of why teens tan in the first place. And I guess it is for the same reasons that anyone does anything that is bad for them. It feels good. Not so much that sitting in the sun or cooking at a salon actually feels good while you are doing it, but that praise you get afterwards feels good. Your friends think that you look healthy and attractive with a tan. And yes, it might even make you look slimmer. People may comment “Wow, you got some sun. What a nice tan.” And who doesn’t like compliments and having people look at you. It feels good.
So, instead of continuing to preach sun safety – which teens know – I think that we should talk about alternatives. First, what teens need to know is that sun tanning salons have upped the ante this year with their advertising. They are trying to combat declining sales of the past few years as people protect their skin more and more. They are even starting an advertising campaign that will be saying that getting sun every day is healthy for the production of vitamin D. While this is true in some respect, most people are not deficient in vitamin D from protecting themselves from the sun. Therefore, very few people really need anymore sun exposure to increase their vitamin D. Second, teens also need to exercise their power of choice over the matter. Teens already know that they can choose how they want to listen to the tanning salon’s advertising and that ultimately, how they take care of their bodies is up to them.
So, what are the safe ways to look as cool and healthy as having a tan? First, tanning pigment lotions out there have become safer and easier to use. Not to mention more natural looking. And there are always spray-on tans. Gone are the days of orangey streaks. More often than not, people can’t even tell the difference. As long as you do it correctly and with care. But do remember, that even with a tan from one of these products, you are still vulnerable to UV rays of the sun and so sunscreen is still a must.
Another nice way to work with a tanless, sun protected skin is to wear appropriate make-up. There are wonderful products out there – bronzer and even pigmented body lotion that will tint your skin. And wearing appropriate rouge as well as colors that compliment your skin color will always enhance your natural beauty.
Finally, be aware that the idea of tan as healthy is just a style faze. And, like the idea that cigarettes are healthy, it may fade quicker than we realize. In the past, fairer skin was considered beautiful and the royalty in Europe powdered their faces to attain it. Now, we color our skin darker. Perhaps the next idea of beauty will be to appreciate and protect our own natural skin. And that will be a step in a direction of true healthy beauty.