Artificial Tanning Has Detrimental Effects

Photo Courtesy of Leyla A, Flickr Creative Commons

It’s time to bundle up and shove those bathing suits and short shorts away. As the sun begins to hide behind the vicious clouds of winter, there's one thing that young adults just cannot let go of, and that is their tan skin.

Winter has its unique beauty, but pale skin is culturally frowned upon. Magazines fill their pages this time of year with the quick fix of spray tanning, or tanning beds, to keep the summer glow all year long. But it begs the question: are these methods are toxic or healthy?

According to Mayo Clinic, spray tanners are chemical compounds called dihydroxyacetone, which reacts with dead skin cells on the surface and temporarily darkens the skin. The coloring wears off after a few days and should only be used externally. This method is likely the safest way to achieve a summer-like glow.

Tanning beds are another popular method of melting away visual signs of winter. Unfortunately, this method is not so safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tanning beds cause premature aging, including wrinkles and sun spots, a change in skin texture and a high risk of melanoma skin cancer. People use tanning beds by lying in an enclosed capsule that exposes the skin to ultraviolet rays for a chosen period of time. UV rays can damage the skin’s immune system and also the skin cells’ DNA. 

“I’m comfortable in my own skin, I don’t need someone else’s,” junior Hannah Mucerino said. Her white skin stays pure, even throughout the summer. “I tan a little bit, but I don’t go out of my way to tan in the summer, so definitely not during the winter.”

Many people argue that tanning beds allow you to obtain vitamin D during the season where the sun isn’t strong enough to provide the vitamins naturally. That is a myth; it is important for the skin to absorb vitamin D, but there are other ways, such as natural vitamins.

For naturally tan Ramapo student Justine Rivera, tanning beds aren’t even an option. “I’m just naturally tan all year round,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m not free to tan anyway. It’s still hazardous for my skin.”

According to a study done by Dr. Mackenzie R. Wehner and colleagues, published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association, it is estimated that “more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer may be related to indoor tanning in the United States each year.” The majority of tanning bed attendees are between the ages of 18 and 25 years old.

So for all of you considering dyeing that light skin of yours, think about the hazards that tanning brings. If you feel like you must, then try using tanning lotions or spray tanning systems that are organic and approved by major health organizations such as the CDC or FDA, not Vogue.