When I moved out to Indiana I remember being shocked at how many people had blonde hair and orange skin in the winter. Here in New England most people are pasty for about nine months out of the year. I myself am a fluorescent shade of white. I could probably be a medical diagram of the circulatory system. I’m sure you can understand how perplexed I was by these strangely colored people. It was not long before I discovered the fact that several birth control medications and others used for acne and other skin conditions react not so well with ultra violet light, resulting in orange pallor. Mix this interesting reaction with the copious quantities of sorority girls on my Big Ten college campus and you find yourself with a front row seat at the Oompa Loompa family reunion.
Since I saw the news teaser about the woman, Patricia Krentcil, who allegedly took her child into a tanning booth, I have not been able to get this picture out of my head. Yes, I know people are concerned for the welfare of the child. I guess that’s reasonable while a bit hypocritical, as crack moms shoot up in front of their kids on a regular basis and no one seems to care about those children. I am way more concerned about the mental well being of this woman. How can you be so unhappy with yourself that you think turning your face into a melted snickers bar will make things better?
I tried the tanning salon a couple of times myself. One of the girls in my dormitory told me that tanning would cure my sinus congestion. I didn’t believe her, of course, but was curious at this widely accepted hobby I knew little about. I don’t mind sweating while I exercise or at the beach where I can go cool off in the ocean. Sweating while you are lying still in a lit up coffin like tube, however, is pretty gross. Those things are HOT (not to mention nasty)! It’s not like parking yourself on a towel over soft sand with the warm rays of the sun heating up your skin as the occasional breeze cools you down. It’s more like sitting on a radiator (if you grew up in an old house you’ll know what I’m talking about) except your whole body is on that radiator. And the weird little shields you have to put over your eyes aren’t the most comfortable. Sometimes you can even get stickers to put on your skin. You can have white shapes burned into your skin with a sort of reverse branding effect. I only lasted ten minutes in the ultraviolet tube my first time and my ass was burnt lobster red THROUGH the bathing suit I wore. (You do not know whose naked butt touched that thing. Yuck.) I don’t think it ever really turned into a tan.
Why are people still participating in this odd, self-destructive activity? I think it’s been made pretty clear that going to the tanning salon is a really quick way to serve yourself a hefty helping of melanoma. Do people just not care? This is a pretty superficial image oriented activity. I imagine most people tan because they like the look. So, you would think that someone who wanted their skin to look a certain way would be less than excited about having large chunks of their face removed for biopsies.
I did see on one episode of Dr. Oz that some quack was recommending getting in a tanning bed to increase your levels of Vitamin D. If you’ve read my other posts, you know that I think Dr. Oz is a space alien and anything he supports you should probably run away from screaming. So, if you are unfortunate enough to have been swindled into thinking that tanning is a safe and effective way to get Vitamin D, I can assure you it is not. You can get the UV rays from the sun to turn your cholesterol into Vitamin D and while you are still at risk for burns, it is not even close to as bad as putting the ultraviolet light inches away from you. Believe it or not, there is an even safer cancer free way to get Vitamin D and that is at your local drug store. Who would have guessed? You know what else you can get at the drug store? Sun free fake tanning lotions!
I think avoiding the sun altogether is a bit extreme. I certainly plan to spend many days at the beach this summer, with some sunblock on. And I will welcome the Celtic in my blood as the freckles show up all over my face. But I don’t want to work for Willie Wonka. And last time I checked he wasn’t accepting applications. Lay off the cancer chambers, America! Go to the beach and get skin cancer the normal way!