If you took everything you saw on the Jersey Shore seriously, you’d think hitting the tanning bed was a harmless vice, like having a soft spot for fist-pumping and Ron Ron Juice. And you’d think Snooki & Co. would be too young to really show any of the scary side effects, at least not this early in the game. Not so, according to Michael Gold, a dermatologist in Nashville. “Doctors can determine pretty quickly if you’ve been a tanning bed user at any point in your life. The skin is thicker and scattered with age spots,” he says. “If you have moles, they’ll also be darker and more irregular than a non-tanning bed user.”
The Best Tan is No Tan
An early occurrence of malignant melanoma is also a dead giveaway. In fact, in a report released by the FDA this May, patients who started using tanning beds before age 35 had a 75 percent increased risk of skin cancer. In Beverly Hills, dermatologist Harold Lancer has observed similarly frightening occurrences on even his most fabulous clientele. “Tanning bed use causes premature aging of the skin, which includes spotting, reduced skin elasticity, fine lines and crepiness,” he says. “People go to the tanning bed to get a little color, but by definition, a tan is an induced injury to the entire skin anatomy.” Because the UVA wavelengths in tanning beds are stronger than those of the sun, they penetrate deeper, quicker and cause more damage.
The Tanning Bed Alternative
Of course, as Snooki & The Gang found out during season two of their show, there is another option. “A spray tan is a safe alternative for people who want a little color,” Lancer adds. So stock-up on sunless tanner (bronzer is a great temporary fix, too), and be sure SPF is a part of your daily routine. And if you did hit the tanning bed in your younger years, even just once, keep a close watch on your moles. “If you notice any changes, immediately seek a dermatologist’s care,” says Gold. “Melanoma is a fatal skin cancer if left undetected. There’s just no need to risk it.”
Have you ever been in a tanning bed? Thoughts?