A Not-So-Healthy Glow This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

February 20, 2013
I have recently begun to wonder, what exactly is behind our culture’s obsession with being tan? Yes, I understand a little color can make a person look better, and even healthier. Tanning can help a girl feel confident at the prom and when she puts on that bikini in the summer. A tan can boost a guy’s confidence as well. Now, however, with so many reality TV shows promoting tanning booths, it’s important to remember that though tanning may make you look healthy, it’s actually bad for you.

Instances of skin cancer in young adults is eight times higher than it was 40 years ago and one of the major causes is probably tanning booths. Tanning booths have also been linked to other health and aging problems. Yet artificial tanning is more popular than ever.

The ultraviolet radiation from tanning booths causes skin cancer and premature aging. According to skincancer.org, “Indoor ultraviolet (UV) tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.” Melanoma is the most aggressive and deadly kind of skin cancer. It amazes me that even though most people who tan are aware of the negative effects, they still do it. Looking “healthy” has become such a priority that they put it above their actual health.

For some, tanning can become a strange addiction. They don’t just tan to get a little color but instead do it so much that they look unnaturally dark and comical. Over time, their skin starts to look damaged, wrinkly, and unnatural. A recent news story reported that a mom brought her young daughter into a tanning salon with her, which is potentially dangerous. But what made the story really bizarre was that the mother’s skin was a shiny, bronze, blotchy mess. She had overtanned to the point that she looked strange and even crazy. Despite the obvious and permanent damage to her skin, the woman thought she looked good.

Why do people do this to themselves? Some may say that reality TV is to blame for featuring so many people who are unnaturally tan. On shows like “Jersey Shore,” the new “in” thing is to visit tanning booths. Young viewers may disregard the potential health risks because they look up to these stars and want to be like them. If everyone on TV is doing it, it can’t be that dangerous, right? Wrong.

As the weather gets nicer, it’s important to remember that lying out in the sun can also lead to skin cancer. Though some people who tan may claim they look and feel better, is it really worth risking cancer and premature aging? Being pale is just as beautiful – and much better for you, now and in the long term.

Down the road, all those teens who tan will be wrinkly, moley, and worrying that the dermatologist will find skin cancer on their next visit. The more you protect your skin now, the better you will look later. And healthy skin is always in.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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