A tan worth dying for?

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

It’s that time of year again; the legs are out, the diet is in full swing, the bikini is ready to be donned and the holiday’s booked. I’m an avid fan of the summertime; as well as it being hot, hot, hot and having the excuse to drink during the day whilst your man fires up the BBQ, it also gives me the chance to fully relax and unwind whilst lying in the sun all day long. However, what most people think about in the summer is one thing; tanning.

Recently we’ve had a sizzling heat wave, with three weeks long of constant high temperatures and glorious sunshine last month. The thing I have noticed the most, however, is the amount of lobster-red and mahogany brown people wandering around half-naked whilst carrying a bottle of tanning oil. Now, I’m the first person to whip out my bikini and get laid out on a sun lounger as soon as the sun decides to show its face, but I always reach for a fairly high-factor sun cream and would never, ever dream of applying tanning oil. The reason for my doing this, as well as not wanting to risk the dreaded lobster-esque look, is that I do not want wrinkles and premature skin aging. But while my reasoning for piling on the sun lotion is purely narcissistic, it is also important to understand the dangers that sun damage really holds.

Maligmant Melanoma (a cancer which starts in the skin) is becoming increasingly common in the UK, with it being the most common cancer in people aged 15-34, and most frequently in women*. With our constant obsession with beauty and appearance, and the western world’s focus on one aspect of being beautiful as having that ‘killer tan’, it’s no wonder that more and more young women are being affected by skin cancer. Undoubtedly, during the recent scorching weather, young and old women alike have been lying in their gardens, whilst 30-odd degrees of sunshine sinks it’s way into their skin. Their goal; the ‘killer’ tan. But in reality, a tan really can be a killer, in the literal sense. Deaths by skin cancer are increasingly on the rise, and worryingly, a rather substantial chunk of these deaths occur in young people. In 2008, 110 people under the age of 40 died from malignant melanoma**; a shocking statistic.

What continually astounds me is that, despite these disturbing statistics, hundreds of women insist on wearing very low factor sun screen, and even worse, many use tanning oil to ‘enhance’ their tan. Not only is this highly damaging to their skin, and can result in serious cases of skin cancer, but it also increases the aging process significantly and can result in premature aging. A friend of mine has been a sun lover all her life, wearing a mere factor 8 sun screen however hot the temperature may be. Now, I’m not being nasty to said friend, but her skin is terrible. Years of sunbathing with, let’s face it, almost no protection has resulted in her having very prematurely aged skin. The thing that shocks me the most is that despite this, she still continues to sit baking in the sun whilst wearing her token factor 8 sun lotion. It makes me think, that if the worrying statistics and the effect it has very clearly had on her skin still do not make her desist in her sun worshiping, or at least encourage her to wearing a considerably higher factor, then is this the same mindset the majority of women in the UK have? And, if so, no wonder there is such a shocking number of skin cancer affected women in our country.

Although recently the weather has been, as I said previously, rather scorching, this is not usually the case. The UK, as you all know, isn’t exactly blessed when it comes to warm weather, with the majority of our summers, autumns and winters being consistently wet and dull. Why, then, is there such a large number of us suffering from sun damage and skin cancer? Simple answer; sun beds.

You’ve all heard it before; sun beds are bad for you. You know that using them increases your chances of getting skin cancer significantly. Why then, do so many of us insist on using them? It’s easy I suppose; you lie there for a few minutes at a time and the end result (in theory) is a beautiful glowing summer tan. A lot of people, however, get burnt on sun beds, which can never be healthy. I have never, and never will, use a sun bed. I will also never wear factor 8 sun cream when it is in fact in the sizzling 30s. Why? Not because I embrace being pale, I’m naturally as white as a ghost and I detest it. Quite simply, because there is one quick, easy and most importantly safe alternative; fake it. Fake tan is quite possibly, in my opinion, the best thing ever invented. It allows you to look glowing and beautiful every single day of the year without running the risk of skin cancer or premature aging. A tan in a bottle; simple. There are so many bottles of the fake stuff on the market women are spoilt for choice; there is no way anyone could say that fake tan is hard to get hold of. The prices of fake tan are reasonable too, with the ultimate St Tropez dupe St Moritz costing a mere £2.99 a bottle. Women, you have no excuses now! Yes, if you want to get a good, flawless tan using the fake stuff you have to take your time and apply it carefully; but surely 20 minutes of your time once a week is a very small price to pay for a safe and healthy tan that won’t damage your skin? A tan may be fashionable, but wrinkles and skin cancer are most definitely not. Next time you crave a tan, don’t sit baking in the sun with little to no sun cream on, and do not take a visit to your local sun bed. Instead, buy a bottle of the fake stuff and embrace the joys of waking up to a flawless, natural-looking tan, without the damage.

*Statistics taken from www.macmillan.org.uk
**Stat taken from info.cancerresearchuk.org
Image courtesy of Google images