Looks to Die For

Looks to Die For

Indoor tanning is a refreshing and relaxing experience. Americans alone spend $5 billion annually at roughly 40,000 locations (Bizzozero).  The tanning bed has made the dream of a healthier and sexier body realistic. However these rewards come at a price. Tanning is directly linked to skin cancer. It has also been known to be addictive; not a very cheap addiction either. Those that tan often find a dent in their checking account. Although tanning beds can be a pleasant experience, overall it is dangerous to your body and shouldn’t be something in your daily schedule.

One of the major reasons people go to the tanning bed is because it’s refreshing. An article in Psychology Today quotes a dermatologist on the subject: “People get a sense of relaxation after they tan . . .” (Yatar 24). Because of this soothing experience, the tanning industry thrives. According to questionnaires, words most frequently associated with tanning salon use include: “relaxation”, “easy”, “nice”, and “friendly” (Hawkins 370). Any profitable tanning salon is designed in a way to settle down their customers. Not only does their equipment need to be top quality, but the overall environment needs to be enticing. Salon waiting rooms are designed to create a calming mood for their clients. Soft lamps, appeasing smells, and a clean environment are all factors. Some businesses even serve alcoholic beverages to promote social interaction. Even this social interaction can contribute to the ‘refreshing’ experience.

On the other hand, you can get the same invigorating experience from taking a fifteen minute nap. There is ample data confirming that naps are very refreshing. Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs  suggests that an afternoon nap as short as ten minutes can enhance alertness, mood, and mental performance (Jacobs).  Can it be a coincidence one has the same feelings after leaving a tanning salon? Lying down for 15 minutes in a tanning bed can provide our bodies a much needed break. This break could be taken advantage outside of a salon. Indeed rest may even be a more compelling reason to tan than the desire to acquire a darker skin tone.

As a matter of fact, tanning can be compelling enough to the point of addiction. Recent published research suggests that UV exposure can be addictive: “Endorphins are produced during exposure to UV light . . . Frequent users of tanning beds may become addicted to them.  Moreover, blocking the effects of those endorphins could lead to withdrawal symptoms“ (Burton). This explains why people are in a positive mood, more relaxed, and even appear to be hooked after a trip to the local tanning salon. That incentive could be a habit, desire, or even addiction. One could infer that it is the feelings, not the tan, that motivates them to return to the tanning bed. Even if an addiction is not present, the impulse to tan could be a craving to experience those endorphins. Nevertheless, the assumption that infrequent tanning is not addictive and harmless could be compared to the statement that occasional smoking is risk free. The facts support that tanning is addictive.

Tanning beds can, however, provide an essential vitamin that our bodies need. Human bodies need UV light to produce Vitamin D. According to the American Society of Nutrition, 90–95% of most people’s Vitamin D requirement comes from casual sun exposure (Holick). Several studies show that people with higher Vitamin D levels have lower rates of cancer. Lab and animal studies show that Vitamin D stops abnormal cell growth, helps cells die when they are supposed to, and stops the formation of blood vessels that feed  tumors (Tanning News). A deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to a weakened bones disease known as rickets (Holick). Oddly enough, one of the first tanning devices ever made was produced with the purpose to cure rickets. It wasn’t until later that the device’s main purpose was to tan athletes (Easy Tanning). Though tanning can be a good source of Vitamin D, it might not be the greatest.

One could get Vitamin D in other ways. Drinking lots of milk can be an alternative source to Vitamin D. Just one cup of milk supplies about one-fourth of the daily need for this vitamin in adults. Vitamin D is also found in other foods like fish and eggs (Holick). One could also drink a cup of milk in less time than an average tanning session. Not only is it more effective to get your Vitamin D elsewhere but also safer.

Frequent tanning is directly correlated to skin cancer and dangerous to the body. In a recent article it warns that tanning beds should be avoided:

Most cases of non melanoma skin cancer are caused by damage to DNA resulting from exposure to ultraviolet radiation of the sun. Skin cancer can be prevented by avoiding risk factors, particularly exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Sunlamps and tanning beds should be avoided, and the skin should be protected with sunscreen or clothing when outdoors. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Going to the tanning bed damages your DNA which can result in skin cancer. The destructive process starts with UV rays removing electrons from water molecules. Without the electrons, hydroxyl radical is produced. Hydroxyl radicals attack the body’s proteins and DNA.  The body’s natural defense mechanism produces melanin to absorb the UV light. Melanin is what gives you the pigment of your skin (Lemon). The tan is a product of your body defending itself from harm. It is ironic to think your body’s defense to destructive rays is an attractive fad. Despite the direct link between tanning and cancer, a good-looking body might be a strong incentive for some.

Sexier looks appears to be the main motivation to tan. Eight out of ten students from Brigham Young University Idaho, when asked why they go tanning, gave responses in relation to looks. To some it is considered neither socially acceptable nor attractive to have pale white skin.  The tanning bed allows for the perfect amount of sun resulting in an even tan. Outdoor tanning or other alternatives result in burns and are not as attractive. Regardless of weather conditions and time of day it is possible for you to achieve that polished bronze look in time for that special event. The tanning bed can help provide ‘good looks’ but at what cost?

A common advertising method is to hide dangerous side effects with attractiveness. Many smoking ads portray the idea that smoking is attractive. Despite the side effects the smoking ads still manage to convince many. Tanning ads are no different. They lure customers despite the fact that tanning is dangerous and addictive.  Many are influenced to persue what is considered a nice-looking body. This advertisement technique makes a profit for the company, which directly effects the consumer.

Tanning, like other luxuries, is expensive. Average prices at local tanning salons usually are one of the following: 20 dollars/ 10 tans, 35 dollars/ 20 tans, or 35 dollars/ unlimited tans for one month. On the monthly plan, it could bring a total to 420 dollars after one year. For some, this is pocket change. For a married college student, this is not an affordable price at all. To sum up, tanning can be expensive which is unattractive.

The decision to go to a tanning bed is a question that faces all individuals at least once in their lives. During an interview with Brian Lemon, a professor of science at Brigham Young University Idaho, promptly answered this question by saying, “Never, no, never, never, nope” (Lemon). According to this source, tanning beds are not worth the risk. Tanning can be refreshing, somewhat healthy, and attractive. But they can also be addictive, destructive, and even expensive. In conclusion, tanning is not worth the cost. Sexier looks and a more relaxed body does not outweigh the consequences of a flat, broke individual with cancer.