Cost of the (un)natural tan


Erika Greet, an employee of U-Tan, a tanning salon located near USC, demonstrates for a photographer the workings of an Ergoline Excellence tanning bed.

Jamie Brian

You’ve been cloaked all winter in more layers than you remember owning. With the spring breeze and rising temperature, it’s as if you’re discovering your skin for the first time. And your skin is begging for attention.

Tanning beds may seem like an efficient, easy fix for your wintertime neglect, but that 20-minute tanning session may end up having more long-term risks than it’s worth for a few weeks of golden bliss.

It may be commonly believed that indoor tanning to get a base coat for summer is safe, but tanning beds emit two harmful forms of ultraviolet radiation: UVA and UVB.

Tanning beds allow a large amount of UV rays to be generated in a small period of time, so a short session is equivalent to spending a whole day at the beach. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, tanning beds emit doses of 12 times as much UVA as the sun.

As it turns out, something that powerful leaves more than just a temporary glow.

The Skin Cancer Foundation also stated that indoor tanning increases the chance of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 74 percent.

A tan is really just the result of damage to the skin, and continued exposure to UV rays during a tanning session can cause permanent damage.

The Food and Drug Administration has found that tanning beds can cause premature aging, giving the skin a leathery look and a loss of elasticity. It may be easy to get an instant tan now, but it’s a lot harder to erase wrinkles later.

Tanning also affects the immune system, weakening the body’s defense system and ability to fight disease.

When eye protection isn’t used, tanners are also at risk of developing eye damage, including cataracts.

If you want a tan but not all of the liability that comes with stepping into a tanning booth, there are some safer alternatives.

There’s always the spray tan, which lasts for about a week and, in 10 minutes of application time, can give you an all-over glow. Beware of the possibility of streaks, though, which can leave you with lines you never wanted. If this happens, you can make a home exfoliating remedy using baking soda and a few drops of lemon juice to remove unwanted color.

For those who just don’t have the extra cash to go to the salon, you can pick up a self-tanning lotion for less than $15 the next time you’re at the grocery store.

Sometimes all you need is a temporary tan for a night on the town with friends. This can be achieved by using a bit of bronzer on your face. Moderation is important here: You don’t want to make yourself look orange, just effortlessly sun-kissed.

If all else fails, don’t doubt the power of good old natural sunlight. That’s not to say you should spend all day basking in the sun. Wear sunscreen and limit your exposure, and your skin will thank you later.

Bronzed or not, this is your body, and your idea of beauty is beautiful. If you choose to tan, there are plenty of less-damaging options available to you. If you’d rather just wait for a sunny day, there’s nothing wrong with embracing natural beauty.

Contact Jamie Brian at [email protected].