The countdown to spring break is in its final stages and you know what that means. It’s time to give your skin a golden gleam, and what better way to achieve that during the drab winter months than with the traditional “fake-bake” festivities?
Whether students are going away for spring break or not, getting a tan is a goal for many. So in preparation for the time off, many students head to tanning salons to prepare for bathing suit weather. And if they aren’t going to the beach, many students want to make it look as if they did.
At Tanning & Co., 423 Albert Ave., the countdown to spring break begins in early February. “We get slammed,” Kelli Careathers, an employee and LCC psychology sophomore said. “Spring break is the busiest time of the year.”
During this time, it is crucial for those who tan to be aware of the decisions they are making. The Indoor Tanning Association, which represents everyone from salon owners and tanning bed producers, to the makers of protective eyewear and lotion, help with this educational process. Melissa Haynes, communications director of the Indoor Tanning Association, said it’s important for consumers to be educated on tanning and aware of the risks behind it.
While the association does not have any regulations of their own, they do follow regulations set forth by the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA labeling requirements for radiation emitting devices warn consumers to avoid overexposure which can lead to eye and skin injury, as well as allergic reactions. The warning also states those using the tanning devices should wear protective eyewear, but as many frequent tanners know, wearing protective goggles isn’t a strictly enforced policy at most tanning salons.
In addition to the FDA’s disclaimer, tanning salons also provide guidelines to new tanners to help evaluate skin type and to determine the length of time spent in the tanning bed. Danger of overexposure is caused by the delayed effects of UV rays, so young people are often unaware of the damage being done to their skin. “I know that I should worry, but I don’t, not yet,” Cathy Deluca, journalism junior, said.
“The primary thing that can happen when people go to a tanning bed for the first time, or even when they haven’t gone in a while, is sunburn,” Dr. Robert Gielczyk, of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School, said. “Sunburn is the short-term, though, obviously cancers are the long-term, and as people get up in their 40s, 50s and 60s, they can start getting skin cancers, wrinkling and signs of aging, as well as discoloration.”
Another problem those who tan can face is the sensitivity to light from medications they are taking. Dr. Charles Ellis, professor and associate chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School, says to check with your doctor. “Often found in the younger population are commonly used oral antibiotics for acne. Some of them can be recognized because their generic names end with ‘cycline,’” Ellis said.
Not everyone agrees this is a risk they want to take. “I don’t use tanning beds because of all the negative things I’ve heard about them,” Kelly Briody, kinesiology junior, said. “It isn’t like I completely avoid the sun, just the direct light of tanning beds.”
Aside from these negative side effects of overexposure to the sun, there are also positives, including vitamin D, which is found in UV rays.
“Moderate exposure is good and necessary, as long as no one gets burned, which is something the Indoor Tanning Association wants consumers to know through education on tanning,” Haynes said. “Tanning beds have a set time so consumers can only go in that long, but we give them guidelines. At the same time they can go out in the sun as long as they want.”
Gielczyk said there is no safe way to use a tanning bed, but if you are planning to, he would recommend going to a reputable place that can help determine the right exposure times. These guidelines can help consumers determine how long and how often they should tan, which can prevent overuse of tanning beds.
“By the way, there’s no evidence that tanning before going on vacation helps protect you. Instead, use sunscreen and time your outdoor activities for earlier or later in the day,” Ellis said.
Jason Jakubus, building and construction management sophomore, believes everyone looks better with tanned skin. “I believe that’s why we all go,” Jakubus said. “But people want results fast and get additcted, which is dangerous.”
This addiction to tanning is something Careathers said she sees in a lot of people. “It is addicting,” Careathers said. “Having darker skin from tanning can really boost your confidence, and it’s just relaxing to lay down in the beds.”
Many people tan because they are unhappy with their natural skin tone. Suzanne Buzzell, food industry managment junior, said she doesn’t like how light her skin is. “I hate how I look when I’m pasty,” Buzzell said. “And after going to Florida over Christmas I didn’t want to lose my tan.”
The same holds true for Jakubus. “I like to maintain a decent skin color,” he said. “I don’t like during the winter months when I get pale and my cheeks turn red. Nothing beats the summer sun, but that does not exist in the winter.”
So whether your motives for tanning are a personal confidence boost, or you want others to envy how perfectly tanned you’ve become after crusing in Cancun, keep in mind the risks when it comes to tanning. Listen to tanning salon employees and protect your skin and eyes when relishing the sun’s rays. The apparent goal is to look like a god or goddess, not a burnt lobster, so don’t overdo it.