The Backlash!

Are you dying to be dark?

Before you go to a tanning salon or use a tanning bed, get the facts. Touting the benefits of tanning salons over outdoor sunbathing is like promoting filtered versus non-filtered cigarettes. Either way, it's a bad idea. Indoor tans make you look old before your time, and they can kill you.

by Rod Van Mechelen


I like playing outdoors. Hiking in the Cascade mountains, playing on the beaches of the Pacific Northwest, water-skiing in eastern Washington; there's nothing like watching the sun come up in Chinook Pass and breathing the heady mountain air laden with the scent of pine.

In the outdoors, there's no avoiding the sun and, except for a few, who would want to? Medical science, however, proves sunbathing is about as healthy as smoking and it's wise to take precautions against over exposure to sunlight. But sun - and sun tans - are part of life. In moderation, they are a part of what makes living worthwhile.

Millions of people, however, believe they look better with tanned skin. Brown, like black, is beautiful, so they tan indoors because it has been promoted as safer than sunlight. But indoor tans can kill you, too.

Tanning salons tout the "benefits" of tanning booths over outdoor sunbathing, and some have even said the balance of ultraviolet-A (UV-A) and ultraviolet-B (UV-B) they use can give you a tan without the danger posed by normal sunlight. But that's like saying filter cigarettes are better (read: less bad) for you than unfiltered cigarettes. Either way, you're asking for trouble.

If you really want darker skin, find a better way to do it. There is a drug currently undergoing testing for FDA approval that causes the body to build up melanin - the pigmentation that causes sun tans - more quickly. In other words, you tan more with less light.

Maybe this is the answer. Make everybody's skin dark. Whatever you do, unless prescribed by a medical professional, stay away from tanning beds. You may be immortal today, but it doesn't last. Give yourself time enough to love. Live healthy.

Note: Several people have asked me for advise ranging from how to cope with skin cancer to better ways to get a "tan." The best advise I can give you is, talk to your doctor.


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