How Safe Is Tanning?
“I’ve never dyed my hair, never fixed my teeth or gotten a tan.” Kat Dennings
Kat could be describing me as well because that is the way I am, or I was until last Christmas when I moved into a new home with large windows and four skylights. During the winter, the windows and skylights streamed in whatever little amount of sunlight was available to heat and brighten my rooms. Often the temperatures wavered and oscillated between cold rain and snow, with temperatures remaining very low. Coming from a warmer climate, I had a terrible time dealing with the weather outside. I had my heater running most of the time, with the modernized dual roller shades on my window closed to conserve energy and prevent heat loss. I was lucky that my home came fully furnished and with automated home system. Life was comfortable.
It was not until the onset of spring did I realize the impact these windows and skylights could actually have on my home and my life itself. As the temperatures began to rise, and I could bring out some of my shorts and skirts to replace warm pants I had been wearing for the past few months, I saw the ugliness of my pale skin. The beautiful and natural glow of my skin had disappeared in the few months I’d spent curled up in my home. I was tempted to try out indoor tanning beds, visit Miami Beach or tanning spray to get back my glow. It was during this period of contemplation that I saw sunlight streaming in through my skylights. I had left the motorized skylight cellular shades open because I had not turned on my heater for last week due to rising temperature. I decided to pull a relaxing couch beneath the skylight so that I could enjoy some warm sunlight and get the glow back on my skin. Being indoors, with complete privacy provided by my home, I could tan my whole body with ease. Working as a fashion model for small time shows, I did not have to report for work until evening. I could enjoy my sunbath as much as I wanted.
It was not until my friend Michelle’s visit did I realize the harm I was causing to my body and indoors by letting the skylights stream in sunlight freely throughout the day. When Michelle walked in to find me enjoying my new book on healthy diet, sprawling on my couch under the sunlight, she let out a squeal of horror. Initially, I guessed it was her response to seeing me in my birthday suit, but later realized she was horrified what I was doing to myself by being under direct sunlight. She gave me a huge lecture on how sun tanning can be harmful to me. According to Michelle, who had been through the craze of tanning as a teen, excessive exposure to the sun is the base of several health risks, including the acceleration of skin aging and increased risk of skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Though sun exposure had some health benefits like vitamin D production and improved mood, she had given up on tanning because it was not worth the risk.
Long-term effects of UV exposure include damage to the skin, eyes, and immune system. I was taken aback to learn that tanning, which made my skin look healthier, would actually cause my skin to lose its elasticity and increases the risk of aging prematurely, wrinkling, and getting age spots. Apart from those scary long-term adverse effects sun exposure has on our health, there are many other short term hazards like sunburn and an allergic reactions that produces an itchy rash in people who are sensitive to UV radiation.
Michelle pulled me out of my bed to get me online for some research on Sun Tanning. What horrified me was the report of American Academy of Dermatology which mentioned melanoma to be the second most common type of cancer in women between the ages of 20 and 29. I was 27. I did some more research to know more about dangerous effects of sun tanning from authentic and reliable websites.
According to Advanced Dermatology & Dermaesthetics of Louisville, exposure to the sun causes:
• Pre-cancerous (actinic keratosis) and cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma) skin lesions, caused by loss of the skin’s immune function
• Benign tumors
• Fine and coarse wrinkles
• Discolored areas of the skin, called mottled pigmentation;
• Sallowness—a yellow discoloration of the skin;
• Telangiectasia—the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin;
• Elastosis—the destruction of the elastic tissue, causing lines and wrinkles.
What I learned about sun tanning was enough to make me aware of the dangerous effects it could have on my body. I learned that there was no such thing as a safe tan. What I imagined to be the healthy glow of my skin was only the effects of the increase in skin pigment, called melanin, which caused the tan color in my skin, and which was actually a sign of damage. Further, direct sunlight would also damage my interiors.
I decided to make the best use of my motorized dual roller shades on the windows and the motorized shades on my skylights to prevent any further UV damage to my body or my home. I would sure continue to enjoy the sunbath occasionally, but only during the safe hours. I would keep myself away from sunlight between 10:00 in the morning and 4:00 in the afternoon, when the sun’s rays are strongest, causing maximum damage. Further, I decided to always wear sunscreen and take frequent breaks from the sun by moving into the shade.
I was glad Michelle had come over to discuss our weekend plans, to prevent me from causing irrevocable damage to my skin.