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Reasons Why Tanning is Still a Thing: An Honest Debacle

It’s the inevitable mid-week cheesy burrito rebellion when you promised your thighs you’d slim them for bikini season. Or flat ironing your hair when the split ends are unmistakable, and your hairdresser threatened to scalp you if you didn’t start taking better care of your hair. “Tell your boyfriend you’re wearing your hair natural now. It’s your new look,” she said to me, ripping her fine-toothed comb through my brittle hair.  I wept silently.

We all have our things that make us feel good in the moment, but we come to regret over time. How do you think Mark Wahlberg feels when he hears Good Vibrations? Or those guys from Kris Kross whenever they put on pants (correctly)? Ill-advised choices. The problem is, how do you reconcile the immense pleasure you feel when your legs no longer blend into your white shorts, with the unspeakable horrors that are being done to your precious outer layer, never to be reversed? Answer: I have no idea. But I’m willing to reason it out together.

Sun Worshipper (photo): theberry.com

First lets begin with a look at the history of changing skin tones, minus Michael Jackson. You probably already know how women used to worship porcelain skin for centuries, even going so far as to put powdered lead-based minerals on their faces, sometimes resulting in lead poisoning. Tanned skin was considered working-class skin, plebian and unattractive because it showed that you worked outside for a living like some sort of buffoonish savage.

But then there was Coco Chanel, the legendary fashion designer and celebrity icon of the 1920s, who got a little too much sun on her Riviera vacation aboard the Duke of Westminster's yacht. When she came back with bronzed skin, her fans decided it was the greatest fashion innovation since bouclé tweed suits and decided to emulate it, changing an industry from being at risk of lead poisoning to premature aging and cancer (health.howstuffworks.com).  I don’t believe gratitude is in order.

So why do we still do it? Here are my theories:

1. We see no immediate consequences. Except if you count sex appeal as a consequence. It’s a lot easier to bask in the glow of your glow when the harsh side effects aren’t likely to show up immediately. However, it may not be as far down the line as you think. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic report a more than doubling of skin cancer in women under the age of 40 since the 1970s (webmd.com).

2. It appears to clear up acne. Key word is “appears.” What it actually does is cover up red spots with a darker complexion, making the skin irritation not as noticeable. But you’re really only exchanging one skin problem for potentially more serious ones (healthcentral.com).

3. It makes us happy. Bright sunlight produces serotonin in our bodies, making for better moods, and a “calm, yet focused outlook.” It also produces melatonin which helps us sleep better and therefore help improve our moods and energy levels (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).

Sun Bathing (photo): theberry.com

While I’m sure the benefit is not astronomical, new research suggests that “purposeful, controlled sun exposure” without SPF may in fact be good for you. It provides you with vitamin D, a key nutrient so disregarded that the amount of people that are deficient has reached epidemic proportions. Even Gwyneth Paltrow admits to having low bone density from a lack of vitamin D (style.com).

Moral of the story is: many of life’s immediately gratifying things come with a price. Skipping class to sleep, stalking ex-boyfriends on Facebook, sitting in beanbag chairs (good luck getting up), but it doesn’t mean we don’t end up doing them. The important thing is figuring out if the risks are worth the consequences. For me, I usually always end up sitting in the beanbag chair.

Coco Chanel (photo): http://2.bp.blogspot.com/

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