It Pays to be Pale: Risks of Tanning

Photo credit: theogeo / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

I remember the first time I went to a tanning salon. I believe I was 16 or 17 and my mom went with me to ask the salon about any risks as I have a birthmark on the back of my leg I always keep an eye on. Their response was that it was fine, just monitor it and  sent me on my way to get my first tan.

I probably tanned on and off occassionally until I was about 20 before I started to really learn about the risks through Cosmopolitan’s Safe Sun Campaign. This was started by Kate White, the magazines former editor-in-chief. From then I vowed to never use tanning beds again and try my best to be safe while in the sun. Especially as a person with very fair skin, or as many others say, pale.

Today, things are different. It is just like smoking, as the years go by and we learn more about it, we know there are risks.

Times Are A Changin’

The Surgeon General recently came out by saying skin cancer was a major health problem. In a USA Today article, they covered the announcement and many other details for this cause.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight states have now banned tanning beds for those under the age of 18, and 41 states regulate the use on minors.

The reason for these regulations is because tanning is linked to skin cancer, specifically melanoma one of the most dangerous kinds.

“Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, kills one person every 50 minutes,” the Melanoma Foundation reported on their website. “It is the second most common cancer for young adults aged 15-29 years old. Rates for melanoma are increasing faster than nearly all other cancers.”

We also live in a society that wants to keep a youthful look, yet tanning causes some of the issues many people pay a lot of money to remove or prevent.

“Every time you tan you increase your risk of getting skin cancer, including melanoma. Indoor tanning also causes premature skin aging, like wrinkles and age spots, changes your skin texture, increases the risk of potentially blinding eye diseases, if eye protection is not used,” the CDC said on their website.

I think a lot of people, especially young people, have the “it won’t happen to me” mentality. Having a tan is more popular than “being pale.” Or, stepping aside from tanning beds, people don’t realize the need to use sunscreen when stepping outside. What isn’t realized that I’ve learned over the years is anytime a person is exposed to the sun or goes into a tanning bed, we are actually damaging our skin.

tanning alternativeAlternatives

Thankfully businesses have created better solutions for spray tans and lotions much better than ever before. In the past they made a person almost orange and it they had a bad smell. Today we can get spray tans that are very natural and buy products that work.

Recently for a wedding I used Sally Hansen’s Airbrush Legs “leg makeup.” I’ve actually had this for a couple years but didn’t really use it. It went on really easily, wasn’t orange, and just overall had nice even color. I never got a single comment the entire night about my legs being pale (which is good for me, usually at least one person makes a snarky comment).

Overall I just encourage anyone to learn more about the risks and learn what to watch out for. Even if you don’t use tanning beds, you’re still being exposed to the sun daily. Know what to look out for and educate yourself.

What to Look For

Monitor your skin and monitor any moles or spots you may have. Consider annual trips to a dermatologist or even just ask your primary doctor to check out any concerns you have. The American Cancer Society has a great list of what to keep an eye our for, as well as the Skin Cancer Foundation. The link to the Skin Cancer Foundation includes the “ABCDEs of Melanoma” with visuals of what to look out for.

It’s helpful to discuss your current moles and spots with your doctor and have them tell you what to look for too. I had a couple spots I thought had changed when I had a regular physical last year. My doctor was super helpful, looked at all the spots and they all thankfully checked out okay. She also showed me some images of what to look for that were similar to mine and really eased my mind. It’s important to include skin checks into your health routine.


2 thoughts on “It Pays to be Pale: Risks of Tanning

  1. Cosmopolitan is sponsored by major sunscreen companies, don’t you think their maybe some financial benefit from them telling you to stay out of the sun and slop on the sunscreen?

    If you actually do your research, you will notice that melanoma is NOT even in the top 50 for fatalities of cancers, you will also find that the average mortality rate of melanoma is 2.1 per 100,000 people (.000021 %) and that number has been unchanged since 1985. Now tell me again how using tanning beds increase your risk of skin cancer?


    1. Thanks for your feedback. Cosmo inspired me not to, but so did conversations with my doctors too. I’m just not taking my chances, especially since I have fair skin. I’ve read many studies though and heard from doctors that it’s damaging to your skin. I could definitely be wrong, but I’m just not taking my chances.


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