Do not, I repeat, DO NOT…

TAN!  I will only say it one more time….DO NOT TAN!

Yes. I said it.

First let me give you some background on my skin.  Naturally I have strawberry blonde hair and fair skin…a great combination for burning!  When I was 6 we went to California.  While on Huntington beach we were digging a hole.  It was windy and a bit chilly.  Because everyone was wrapped up in blankets and towels my mother didn’t think it was necessary to put sunscreen on me, after all it was over cast.  Well, I FRIED!  I had little blisters all over my back.  After a few days all the little blisters formed one big blister.  One day it popped and I had to have all the dead skin cut off, leaving my back raw!  We had to wrap it in gauze every day.  The doctor said it was like I laid a hot iron on my back.

I was advised to wear a tee shirt with SPF 45 on my entire body for the next 10 years.  Well that is all good and fine until you are older than 10 and start to care what you look like.  I took off the shirt and kept sunscreen on until I was about 14.  Meanwhile, every year or so my mother would take me to the dermatologist and get my skin checked for growing moles.

Then there was high school.  I was a cheerleader and was not about to show my white legs in a white uniform…that would only make them look even pastier.    Well, I didn’t go often because it was $3 a tan and I was poor.  (Doesn’t that seem cheap now?)  Once I even bought a 10 pass.  It lasted me a whole year….ha ha I am sure it did nothing for me but I liked tanning.  Made me feel pretty.  And it was a must before Sweethearts when I wore a pale yellow dress!

When I got in college I lived just down the street from the gym, which has a tanning salon attached to it.  I came up with this great idea that I would go to the gym, then tan, and then come home and shower those smells off me.  I did this faithfully.  I was tan, don’t get me wrong.  It paid off…after I paid for it!  Then I took a little break because I didn’t want to sign another contract.

Right before I got married I started tanning again.  Gym, tan, gym, tan…some times I would even run to the gym to get a little extra sun, work out, tan, and run back to get some more sun.  It paid off.  I was tan for my wedding. (PS!  Hayley Anderson is the best photographer!!)

Just before my wedding I bought a tanning pass.  I figured if I went 3 times a week I would get my money’s worth.  So I did…and I felt guilty if I didn’t go.  I did 3 times a week for a year with a little short break in there once or twice because I wasn’t getting to the gym like I wanted to.

Not soon after my pass ran out I took a job at a tanning salon.  I thought it was going to be awesome (it wasn’t) because I wouldn’t have to pay for tanning, therefore I was actually making more money.   BLAH!  I bought so many different products…an intensifier, a bronzer, a tingler, an after-tan lotion (an extender), a face lotion, teeth whiteners….I wanted it all!  I was tan!  Very tan!

Notice how the fair skinned girl matches the olive skin boy!  That is tan for me!  PLUS! I put on a few extra pounds.  The salon didn’t have a fridge or a microwave so I ate out every shift I worked.  So much for saving my money huh!?

After quitting the tanning salon hell hole, I went a few times to the exact bed, just at a different place.  The Sun Angel.  Of all the tanning beds I have been in this is pretty posh!  (At Palm Beach we charged $30/tan even though it cost 25 cents to run it.  Rip off!)  The bed has a sensor on it.  You press it to the darkest part of your body (usually your forehead) and then the lightest part (usually your inner arm).  The bed calibrates itself to give you the right amount of intensity so you don’t get burned.  This is the truth!  I burn in tanning beds, even with a great base tan.  Never burned in the Sun Angel!  It has shoulder tanners, face tanners, air conditioning,it is cooled under the acrylics, it has surround sound, and misters!!  I tell you, posh!  And that is why I wanted to continue tanning in it.  One time a week and I was good to go.

Good to go…until I went to the dermatologist!  First of all, the only reason I went to have my moles checked like I did when I was younger is because my sister has a basal cell carcinoma removed from her neck…slow growing skin cancer.  That scared me and I decided I had better go in, seeing as how I was the one that worked at the tanning salon.

My first visit to the dermatologist, the doctor removed SEVEN moles that looked ify.  S.E.V.E.N!  And only one of them was on my back where I got the bad sunburn as a kid.  Then two weeks later I got a call that said some of them were good and didn’t show any signs of cancer.  However some had changing cells in them.  Meaning, the cells were changing and MAY change into melanoma.   One of them though, had some bad cells touching the edge of the sample they removed.  They wanted to be sure that they got every cell out, if they didn’t it could continue to grow.

The second time I went in (to have more of the area removed) I asked the PA to do a more thorough check.  The time before I was a little more modest than I should have been.  He removed 4 more!  I pointed one out to him that had been bothering me.  It bled easily and was a little raised.  He decided to remove it just to be safe.  Two weeks later I got another call.  This time though, some were good, some bad but we got everything, and then one (the one I pointed out) was 2 steps away from a melanoma…if it hadn’t been caught I would have been screwed!  Melanoma isn’t curable…all they can do is keep cutting more and more out.  This mole had cells that had changed and were beginning to become something worse.  Mole removal count…total 12 (7+5)

My third time in I had a small surgical procedure on the scary mole.  The doctor numbed the area with 5 syringes of solution.  Then he cut a chunk of skin out.  Two layers of stitches later and I was done.  I asked him to do a VERY thorough 100% body check…I was not about ready for him to miss anything.  He found another one…right by my nipple (remember I was being modest before) that he removed.   Mole removal count: 13 (7+5+1)  Two weeks later I got another call.  Never a good thing when the doctors office calls with results.  I like the no news is good news deal.  Turns out the one he removed on my boob was like the previous one and required another surgical procedure.

My fourth time in the doctor gave my 5 more syringes of numbing solution, cut out a chunk of skin, and gave me two layers of stitches.  Afterward he told me he wanted to do another full body check in 6 months.  We would keep doing 6 month check ups until I had a few appointments in a row that I was clean and then we would go to yearly appointments…most likely for the rest of my life.  See!  Isn’t tanning lovely!?

I just went in for my 5th appointment, my 6 month check up.  Would it surprise you if I said I had two more moles removed?  Probably not, right!  One was forming in a place that I had already had a mole removed…it required yet another small surgical procedure.  The other was one that looked ify.  Now I sit and wait…no news? or will I be going back in?

Mole removal count: 14 (7+5+1+1) I only counted the regrown mole as one
Appointment count: 8  (check up #1, check up #2, surgery #1 and check up #3, stitches removed, surgery #2 and check up #4, stitches removed, check up #5 and surgery, stitches removed)
Money spent: $450 ($40/ check up & $250 for first surgery…then our out of pocket was met)

Wasn’t tanning worth it?  NO!

Now I have to stress about having skin cancer, my skin will age faster, and I have a bunch of scars from the 13 moles I have had removed….so far!  From here on out I am sticking to sun screen when I am outside and spray tans/ tanning lotions.

People, don’t be afraid of spray tans!  I have done them.  They are GLORIOUS!  Not only will you not have to have moles removed, scars replacing moles, and spend endless hours at the dermatologist office, but you will thank your skin later in life when you still look younger and glamorous.   You don’t have to have someone spray you…you can go in a booth and the machine will do it.  Spray tans have come so far from when they were first introduced that you won’t look orange or streaky.  Now, there are some products that are more suitable for certain skin types than others and that could leave you looking the wrong shade of brown for your skin tone, but not orange.  If you are going in a booth (like I prefer…no one is spraying my naked body!) and have more red undertones in your skin…use the Versa (just make sure they use Versa product).  If you have more olive toned skin go in the Mystic (if they use Mystic product).  Either way make sure they dry you.  This will help you from feeling sticky and will reduce the amount of solution that rubs off on your clothes before your first shower.  I like to wear loose fitting black clothing.  It WILL stain white and will rub off on tight fitting clothes.  Rubbing off on your clothes won’t effect your tan, but it will effect your clothes.  Don’t get sweaty or you will get streaky from the liquid running down your body…which is why you wait to shower.  They can have a little smell to them…do it at night, shower in the morning, and change your sheets.  SEE!  No biggie!  And no skin cancer!

Here is some information I learned from my dermatologist:
*If you think you are going to go tanning so you can go on your trip or go out in the sun and not get burned, think again!  Getting a “base tan” is worse for your skin than if you went outside and got burned.  You see, when you go tanning it is like being out in the in sun at high noon times 2.  So say you go for 20 minutes it is like laying out for 40 minutes.  I was doing this 3 times a week.  That would be like laying out for 2 hours at high noon per week…a few months of it to prepare you for your trip…24 hours of laying out in the sun at high noon?!  WOW!  I would never lay out for 24 hours in a whole year!  Plus, sun bed rays are stronger than the sun because you don’t have the ozone to protect you…you lather up with lotion to pull out the pigment in your skin.  Dangerous!  Instead of getting a “base tan” and wasting your time and money at the salon (cause you know you are going to get at least 10 tans plus a bottle of lotion at the minimum price point of $30), get a spray tan right before you leave and wear sunscreen.
*Did you know a melanoma can show up anywhere…even if you have never been burned there and it is the whitest part on your body.  It can even show up on your scalp under your hair, in your belly button, or in the cracks and crevices of your privates!

Here is some unknown facts of tanning salons (at least the one I worked at):
*It costs about 25 cents to run a bed for 20 minutes.  Feel like you have been ripped off?  You have!
*Tanning lotions are marked up 150%.   Don’t buy a lotion unless it is on a big sale or your are just ripping yourself off.
*Just because the lotion has more bronzers doesn’t mean you are going to get a darker tan.  Bronzers are just fake color that goes on your skin and wears off over the next few days.  Sound like a spray tan…essentially it is.  Unless you have color already (whether you are olive toned or tan already) don’t use a bronzer.  You WILL look orange.  Use an intensifier…the same thing without the fake color.  (Most tanning salons don’t explain the difference between the lotions….because they don’t know.  Now doesn’t that make you feel safe about the product they are “recommending”).
*Wolff beds are a waste of money.  In order to even get tan, you have to have UVA rays.  Wolff beds (or basic beds) are only UVB rays.  These will not tan you.  They will only help you build your melanin…which you have to have for UVA rays to make you look tan.  If you only tan in the cheap beds you will have a reddish looking tan.
*Your skin replaces and renews itself every 28-30 days. A tan will not last more than a week or two depending on your skin type and the health of your skin.  So you put in a ton of money to tan and if you don’t keep it up and keep spending money, it will be as if you never tanned at all.  Cost effective huh!
*If the tanning bed is hot when you get in it it means one of two things: the bulbs are at the end of their life or someone just hopped out.  If someone just hopped out you may feel like you get a better tan since the bulbs are “warmed up” but actually it is just because you are flushed because the bed is hot.  You would look the same if you just exercised.
*You have to be certified by the health department in order to work with tanning beds…whether it is just to clean them or to actually put people in them.  (This was the case in my county at least.)  I PROMISE most tanning consultants or bed cleaners are not certified.   In fact, I didn’t even find out about it until the health inspector came and asked for our licenses…I had been the store manager for 5 months.  Then the inspector never even came back to check up on the list of things he left me to fix.  Doesn’t that make you feel safe about the place you are putting your naked body?

Bottom line…

 Not that bottom line…but that IS a side effect of laying in a tanning bed…DON’T TAN!  As much as you may be doing it for a “base tan”, for relaxation, to make you feel skinnier…whatever the reason (I have heard or said it all), it isn’t worth the potentially life changing effects.  Tans don’t last but wrinkles and melanoma does.

3 thoughts on “Do not, I repeat, DO NOT…

  1. From the mother that said please DO NOT GO TO A TANNING BED – it is good to hear that you finally learned. Lets hope your warning saves many others the same trauma you have experienced.


  2. Hello,
    I think its great and i have completely taken on board what you have mentioned but i have a few questions, how long did you used to go on the sunbed for 3 times a week? how many years all together? and what is the risks from the sun angel? I think i will share this on face book as a lot of girls i know have been going on these for absolute donkeys years! x


    • When I was in high school I bought a 10 pack and just went every now and then “to get some color” or “so I don’t burn when I go outside”. First of all, the color you get from one session doesn’t last, unless perhaps your skin tans EXTREMELY well. This fair skinned blondie does not. (What a lot of people don’t know is when you are going just to “get some color” or “get a base tan” you actually do MORE DAMAGE to your skin then if you just went outside and got burned. All the times you go in to the bed to “get your base tan” does more damage than one sunburn.) When I was in college I went 3 times a week for about a year. I would then take a 6 month break and start again….mostly because tanning is just too expensive. If you buy the unlimited passes like I did you really need to go frequently to get your money’s worth. If I wasn’t going as much as I planned I would take a break until it was time to get color for another event. Then I worked at a tanning salon. (What was I thinking!? Not only is tanning bad for you but the tanning industry is EXTREMELY shady, in my opinion) For the year that I worked there I tanned three times a week most weeks. I rarely used anything but the Sun Angel because the Sun Angel calibrates the power of the bulbs to the pigment of your skin…meaning if you are lighter the bulbs aren’t as powerful as when you are darker. If they were, you would FRY! Every now and then I would go in a high pressure bed. High pressure beds provide mainly UVA rays. (UVB rays build the melanin in your skin so when UVA rays hit the melanin it tans. The cheap beds, aka Wolff beds, are just UVB rays. If you only go in those you will never tan…just get pinker.) I also “cocktailed”. This is when you go tanning first to warm you up and open your pores. Then you get right in a spray tan booth. the spray settles in your pores making your spray last longer. I did this on times when I wanted to be darker right now. All in all I would say from 2002-2011 I tanned 3 times a week for a total of 3 years…not in a row, just total. Now I am paying the price by having a total of 20 moles removed so far and several removed for the second time. Most of these moles have been per-cancerous…meaning if I didn’t get them removed then I would have skin cancer. Skin cancer is incurable. Once you have it the only thing you can do it keep on cutting out chunks of skin. Cute huh!?
      Tanning has been one of the worst and stupidest decisions I could have made. Not only have I had to have so many moles removed (I have to go to the dermatologist every 6 months for check ups) and wasted SOOOO much money but my skin has sun spots and fine lines…all before age 30. I know girls think tanning makes them look better but in the long run it just makes you look worse.
      Hope I answered all of your questions! Feel free to ask more or send people my way. I am happy to share my story and knowledge with anyone.


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