Staying Bronzed AND Healthy — It’s Possible!

By Amanda Ferrara, Student at New York University

Is a bronzed glow really the way to go?

In today’s culture, many young adults feel that acquiring a tan is a way to boost attractiveness, and with the popular mentality of instant gratification, tanning salons are often preferred over lying out in the sun. However, it has been found that while excess exposure to natural sunlight is said to be dangerous, tanning beds provide almost 12 times the amount of hazardous rays and greatly increase the risk of skin cancer.

As safe and health friendly as many tanning salons say their services are, a recent report on the Skin Cancer Foundation website stated that many salons do not always provide accurate information about the risks of using their facilities. In fact, the study found that 90 percent of the salons stated that indoor tanning did not pose a health risk to people even with very fair skin.

When hearing this news, I decided to check in with my local tanning salon and gather informative pamphlets from the front desk. The pamphlets were not very helpful when it came to understanding the risks of tanning; there was no information on tanning beds and the only safety hazard given for spray tanning was that users should avoid inhaling or ingesting the tanning solution.

Spray tanning, however, does not seem to be the main concern for the doctors, scientists and the health conscious. The real concern is the use of UV, or ultraviolet, beds. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “the cumulative damage caused by UV radiation can lead to premature skin aging, as well as skin cancer,” no matter what the tanning salons may claim. To make matters even more frightening, the foundation reported that developing cancer can be more instantaneous than many of us may think; just one experience in a tanning bed is enough to increase the risk of melanoma by as much as 75 percent.

So what can a person do when they want to decrease their risk of skin cancer but still obtain a summer tan? How can we get the best of both worlds?

While the chemicals sprayed in tanning booths should not be ingested or inhaled, spray tanning has been said to be a healthier alternative to tanning beds because UV rays are not being used; your skin is more or less being dyed as opposed to being damaged. If this is your tanning method of choice, remember that just because your skin is bronzed, does not mean it is protected. Many young women make the mistake of thinking that a spray tan is a “base tan” and then forget to apply or reapply sunscreen; a spray tan is completely artificial and offers zero protection from the sun.

An even safer option is to use a self-tanner. Aside from gradual tanning lotions, I am a huge fan of Sally Hansen’s Airbrush Legs Spray and Dr. Dennis Gross glow pads that can be found at Sephora. Neither of these products create the orange glow that has caused many people to fear self-tanners and the color washes off after a few days. When heading to the beach, use the proper amount of sunscreen to achieve a gradual, natural tan as opposed to “binge tanning” to get darker as quickly as possible — then use these products when you need to be bronzed and beautiful at a moment’s notice!

No matter your method of achieving a tan (if any) or what your viewpoint on tanning beds is, tanning will continue to be a topic of discussion and debate for many years to come. Just doing research on this topic proved how controversial it is; the owner of the tanning salon seemed nervous and defensive as I spoke to her and none of the dermatologists I contacted wanted to go on the record for giving me information.

It is extremely important to do your own research and to not rely solely on the information that salon employees give you. Talk to your own doctor and use multiple sources when gaining information, and most importantly, use your own judgment. For me, it all came down to thinking logically: Tanning beds were essentially invented to speed up and condense what the sun does in days or weeks (with sunscreen) into a 10-minute, unprotected process. Does that seem natural and healthy to you? Me neither.

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