Article by Keira Montanary | Photography by Jennifer Lewis | Owl Staff

With the warmer weather comes swimsuit season, the beach, and many hours spent outside in the sun. Many may start preparing for the summer sun by going to tanning salons in hopes of developing a nice base layer tan and getting a head start on that bronze glow.

While some may tan occasionally in preparation for special events, others develop a serious addiction to tanning. “Tanorexia” is described as a physical or psychological need to be tan. According to WebMD, “Addiction is why tanorexics can’t simply slather on self-tanners — just as chain-smokers can’t be cured with a stick of gum.” It is an addiction many young men and women are dealing with. It’s all about having that “natural glow.”

HCC student Erica Richardson says, “Tanning is wonderful! It puts me in a great mood and makes me feel good about myself because everyone looks better when they are tan,”

Richardson continues, “I was watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs…and all I could think about was how much better Snow White would look if she was tan.”

It’s this mindset that sends people flocking to tanning salons year-round. Many people utilize tanning beds during the fall and winter months, and it is no surprise to see teenage girls signing up for tanning before prom in the spring or vacation in the summer.

“The World Health Organization says teenagers should be banned from using tanning beds because the risk of melanoma increases if you tan before the age of thirty-five.”

Jessica Barley, an airbrush technician at Aruba Sun and Spa Tanning Salon, used to tan in the bed almost every other day. “I have naturally pale skin, and I started getting so many compliments once I developed my tan. I knew the dangers, but it didn’t matter to me. Every woman in my family goes tanning.”

Jessica started to tan at age sixteen; however, in Maryland, you have to be at least eighteen years old to sign up for tanning. Any younger and parental consent is required due to the damaging effects of UVA and UVB on the skin.

UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin, causing it to darken and develop the radiant, sun-kissed glow everyone desires so much. UVB rays damage the outer layers and cause sunburn, followed by cancer. While many salons claim their beds have more UVA rays than UVB, exposure to the former can damage melanin and has recently been proven to cause skin cancer as well.

Studies done by the International Agency for Research on Cancer have shown that using a tanning bed increases the risk of skin cancer by 75%. The World Health Organization believes teenagers should be banned from using tanning beds altogether because the risk of melanoma increases if you tan before the age of thirty-five.

If these high skin cancer risks don’t scare you away, perhaps premature aging will. According to the Food and Drug Administration, UVA rays damage cell production in the skin and reduce elasticity. In other words, tanning also causes wrinkles. However, there are alternative ways to achieve that sun-kissed skin you may be craving. You can find self-tanners at the drugstore, often for under $10 a bottle, or at beauty stores like Sephora or Ulta, with higher-end brand name self-tanners that cost $30 or more.

Exfoliating before getting your spray tan is key to having a smooth, even tan. Moisturizing after will help keep the color from fading as quickly, or getting blotchy. It may take some trial and error to find the tanning lotion that works for you, but it is safer than spending $80 for a month’s worth of tanning in a bed and increasing your risk of developing skin cancer.

Keep this in mind: just tanning for even a month increases your risk of cancer and premature aging. Is it? When in doubt, embrace your inner paleness. Didn’t you hear? Vampires are in.

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