The ugly truth about tanning

Tanning is categorically stupid.

Someday our generation will shudder at the thought of crawling into a claustrophobic plastic bed and being blasted with cancerous ultraviolet rays. We’ll be mortified at the amount of money we spent to potentially shorten our lives. We’ll be embarrassed of our early onset wrinkles, leathery skin and sunspots that cover our once-perfect skin. We’ll kick ourselves for ignoring all of the warnings from our doctors, dermatologists and mothers. But hey, we’ll be lucky to be kicking ourselves at all when we could have been one of the thousands of Americans to die of melanoma each year.

Sounds harsh, doesn’t it?

After all, you only go tanning “every once in awhile” and it helps “clear up your acne” and the vitamin D is “actually good for you in the winter months.”

Not harsh enough, Snooki.  opinion

The ugly truth is that there is absolutely no logic behind any given reason to tan indoors. There is no benefit to UV exposure that exists without life threatening risk and the statistics to support this are overwhelming.

Fact: According to, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined over the past three decades. More than 2 million people are diagnosed in the U.S. annually. Sadly, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer.

“But, the sun causes cancer, too!”

It’s true that in many circumstances natural sun exposure is to blame for cancer. However, it doesn’t hold a candle to the risk involved with indoor beds, where a person may receive as much as 12 times the annual UVA dose of a person receiving natural sunlight. Ten minutes in a sunbed is equivalent to 10 minutes in the Mediterranean sun during the middle of summer.

Fact: reported that an estimated 2.8 million Americans are diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma each year, a highly disfiguring cancer. An estimated 700,000 cases of Squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year.

“OK, but there are lots of things with greater risk than tanning.”

The International Agency for Research on Cancer includes tanning in its group of the most dangerous cancer-causing substances. Other group members include plutonium, UV radiation and cigarettes. Let me guess, you wouldn’t dare smoke would you? Well UV radiation is a human carcinogen too, so in terms of risk involving cancer, no there are not many things things worse than tanning.

Fact: Individuals who tan indoors just one time per year in high school or college boost their risk of basal cell carcinoma by 10 percent. Six times per year? A 73 percent increased risk. That’s less than once a month.

“Hold on, isn’t vitamin D is supposed to be good for mental health though? Especially when Minnesota winters have so little daylight?”

First of all, if you expect me to believe that your sole reason for indoor tanning is to lift your spirits, then I suppose I should inform you that I was a tanner. You cannot fool me because I, too, convinced myself that the bright lights were providing me with a dose of happiness that I really needed. In reality, we both know that it’s about the bronze. That’s why they call it tanning, you go home tan. People with serious concerns about their mental health don’t spend hundreds of dollars on glittery lotions and long-lasting tan extenders. They go to the doctor. They eat healthy. They go for a run.

Furthermore, vitamin D is important for bone health far more than mental health. In the event that tanning did make you feel better during dark winter months, the exact same vitamin comes in a nice little package full of supplements. Some of them are shaped like Flintstones, others taste like gummy bears. Not one of them causes cancer.

Fact: More than 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to skin aging are caused by the sun.

“Well I’m more concerned with having clear, acne-free skin now.”

Your older, wrinklier self is really going to curse you for saying that because someday aging will be much higher on your list of priorities. In the meantime, allow me to remind you that tanning does not clear breakouts. It’s a quick fix that may help to hide blemishes by adding pigment to the skin and drying it out, though not ridding your face of acne. In fact, according to Today Health it can make your skin condition worse. Don’t believe me? Take a trip to the dermatologist. Although, I should warn you, utter the word ‘tanning’ and your appointment will lengthen by at least 30 minutes.

So I’ll say it again, tanning is categorically stupid. The writing’s on the wall. If nothing has resonated with you thus far, then I’ll leave you with this: those goggle lines around your eyes? They’re seriously insulting your intelligence.

Carly Samuelson can be reached at

One Reply to “The ugly truth about tanning”

  1. THANK YOU for this article! I cannot count the number of times I’ve expressed my disappointment to my friends and loved ones who routinely go to the booths. It is so sad to see people actively shortening their lives all for a little glow.

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