I took off my shoes and pushed them to the wall. Immediately, I felt the coldness from the tile floors on the bottom of my feet. I quickly began to undress and put the red heart sticker on my lower stomach so I could see my progress. I began to apply lotion on all the parts of my body I could reach. I walked over to the already opened machine, got settled inside, closed the lid, and pressed the purple button to start—while also situating the goggles on my face, to protect my eyes. The music blared by my ears and I was well on my way to becoming a nice golden brown. Ten minutes later, the bed stopped, I hopped out, hot and red-faced. I removed the heart sticker and only remnants of my pale skin, remained underneath. I was 16 years old.
I repeated this process for nearly 10 years and it got to the point where I used it as an outlet for many things: feeling cold? tan. feeling sad? tan. feeling pale? tan. need to get away from everyone? tan. need to look good in a shirt? tan. hot date tomorrow? tan. You get the idea… for years, I didn’t really care what tanning salon I’d go or if I’d get burnt. I’d just make sure I moisturized more that evening and take colder showers, if I felt more red than normal.
One particular night, I went to a new tanning salon and hopped in the tanning bed for 10 minutes. When I got out, my entire body tingled, but I ignored it. I knew I had gotten burnt, but I thought it would be okay within an hour or so. I went home, took a cold shower, changed into pajamas and got into bed. I realized, I was burnt so bad that anywhere I was lying on the bed was hot, and I was covered in sweat. I barely slept for two days because I was so miserable with a terrible burn. It was then, I decided that tanning wasn’t worth it anymore.
It’s sad that not even potential skin cancer would scare the younger me from using a tanning bed. Not the incessant badgering from my parents would make me stop. It took me, probably cooking my insides a little too much, to realize how bad this habit was and that it was actually hurting me. Now, at 34 years old with wrinkles, scary moles, and the prevalence of cancer all around me, I’ve finally realized the ramifications of my actions. I try to speak out against younger girls around me or family members on vacation—when they get a little too red. I try and make sure that I’m wearing the appropriate amount of sunscreen and reapply every two hours, if not before.
After speaking with my dermatologist, I decided that going forward, I was going to use a mineral sunscreen. I used it all last summer, and although it was difficult to come off, if I used too many layers, it was the one sunscreen I didn’t feel the sun penetrate as much… or as quickly. I think that everyone should talk to their dermatologist and see what works for them, but for me, I’ve found this to be key, along with checking to see how long I’m actually in the sun, making sure I take breaks, and making sure all my exposed skin is covered in some form.
Because I gave up tanning, but still like to be tan, I have a gal that comes to my house to do spray tans. It’s really fun and pretty easy. She brings everything with her: a tent to stand in, towels to stand on, and the tanning solution. It takes about 15 minutes to apply, but once she is done, I’m already a golden color. I let that sit usually for a full evening, if I can, before I shower it off. I get nearly two to three weeks out of it. There’s just something that makes us feel better about having a little color in our face, and this is a better way to accomplish that goal rather than messing with the potential risk of what the suns’ or tanning beds’ rays can do to you. So if you’re thinking about hitting the tanning bed today or this week, don’t just take my word, do your homework and research to find if there are better alternatives.