Students prepare for summer tanning season
Published: Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 02:05
Junior McKenna Scelp says she tans about once a day from March until May. She says she inherited her love of tanning from her mother, an avid tanner.
“My time in the tanning bed is 15 minutes of me, surrounded by warmth,” Scelp says. “It makes me happy.”
According to data from the Skin Cancer Foundation, an international organization with headquarters in New York City, overexposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation can cause serious skin cell damage, premature aging and increased risk of skin cancer. Those who use indoor ultraviolet tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, the most dangerous of skin cancers, than individuals who have never tanned indoors, the foundation says.
Despite these risks, tanning salons continue to draw in customers. Freshman Danielle Grubb, a front desk receptionist at Hollywood Tans on Main Street, says approximately 90 percent of patrons at the tanning salon are university students.
“The flow of students coming in to tan is pretty consistent,” Grubb says. “It gets slow over winter session, since the students mostly go home.”
Senior Kelsey Gorman remembers her first tanning experience as a 17-year-old excited for her junior prom. Although she doesn’t tan frequently, she says that she does it for special occasions.
“Some people look better when they’re tan, others look better naturally,” Gorman says. “It’s all about your natural skin tone.”
Peter Weil, acting chairman of the anthropology department, says the idea of tan skin as a symbol of status and health is a relatively modern concept. He says paler skin was considered more desirable in previous generations.
“What you find is when people worked outside, like field workers in agriculture, those who worked outside were generally lower paid,” Weil says. “Lighter skin meant higher status because they could afford to stay inside. Tanned skin was an indication of inferiority amongst other populations.”
These ideas changed around the turn of the 20th century, Weil says. It was around this time that vacations to beaches and lakes became popular among the wealthy.
“Being tan indicated that someone had more leisure time to spend at beaches or lakes,” he says. “A darker tan was seen as a sign that someone was healthy and had enough money that they could afford to spend time on leisure activities.”
Weil says when tan skin became an ideal for Americans in the early 20th century, the idea of the tanning bed came to life. While many cosmetic stores had already sold creams that were meant to artificially darken skin, they often led to discoloration. The next step was tanning showers with multiple heads that emitted an even spray of tanning solution, he says.
However, he says this still did not satisfy consumers. When indoor UV tanning became popular, many people began to use it to maintain a “healthy” glow during colder months and to prepare for the beach.
“The liquid tanning did not seem to have a ton of health issues,” he says. “But UV tanning has always scared doctors.”
Gorman says she is not as educated about the risks of indoor tanning as she should be.
“I don’t think I do it enough to be in that much danger,” she says. “But I’m not fully educated on the risks, so I can’t be completely sure.”
Scelp says she encourages students to know what is best for their skin tone.
“Being happy with your skin tone is the most important thing,” she says. “Some people look better pale and that is fine, too.”