Being born with pale practically see-through skin, I have always wanted to know what it was like to have the “kissed by the sun” look that tanning brings. Every summer I look down at my white skin slick with sunscreen instead of tanning oil and desire the ability to have golden skin instead of aching and peeling sunburns. However, the rising numbers of skin cancer have me thinking the grass may indeed not be greener on the other side. Skip the sunbathing, pass on the tanning beds, buy a new bottle of sunscreen, and use these alternatives to get your body glowing with a healthier tan.
Skin cancer cases are doubling and tripling each year, making it the fastest growing cancer in the United States. I wonder if that has anything to do with the thousands of tanning salons throughout America offering discounts and tanning packages to millions of patrons, many of whom are women under the age of 40. Unfortunately it has been said that most of the sun damage you acquire in your life happens before the age of 20, when young people are more ignorant and less concerned about damaging rays at the beach, in the backyard, or even while lingering with an arm outside the car window. Tanning beds have recently been in the news, not because of a booming business plan this summer, but because the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has finally shown these popular sun-alternative beds as a high risk for cancer.
If you like the look of bronzed skin but want to protect yourself from cancer, apply a self-tanner. With dozens of products on the market safer than the actual sun, some of these lotions, gels, and aerosol sprays also have SPF in them. There are self-tanners that take a few days to set, adding a gradual tone to your skin, while others take merely a few hours and some also require applying additional sunscreen as well. Self-tanning is the least expensive method of having a healthy glow and can be used whenever you feel like using it, however if not done properly or dried in time, streaks may be seen and parts of your skin that are delicate (palms of hands, bottom of feet, in between toes and fingers, elbows, knees, etc.) can become orange.
Spray tanning offers a cleaner, more expensive alternative for the flawless tan look a lot of us covet. A few years ago I paid twenty dollars to get a spray tan before a formal college dance. I stood in a makeshift booth in my underwear with my arms straight out while a woman at my local fitness club sprayed my whole body with a cold airbrush. About twelve hours later I was probably four shades darker than my usual skin color and in pictures I looked fresh from a tropical vacation. In addition to the hand-held airbrush tans, there are also automatic booths designed to spray you every few seconds. Spray tanning doesn’t leave streaks or strange orange tints to the skin and can last for a week to ten days with regular moisturizer use.
Even though applying sunscreen is a pain to remember every single day and the added benefit of being paler than I usually am, with over a 50 percent increase in cases of skin cancer developing since the 1980’s in America, staying pale may actually work in my favor in the long run. Maybe I’ll look into gradual self-tanners and try another spray tan to boost my confidence on the beach for the rest of the summer, but from now on I will—and everyone else should be too—reduce my risk of skin cancer by slathering on the sunscreen and reap the benefits of beautiful skin later in life.