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Tanorexia—Has Tanning Gone Too Far? 5 Facts All Tanoholics (and Everyone Else!) Should Know about the Sun

Ever since the leathered face of New Jersey mother, Patricia Krentcil, shocked audiences on the news this spring, the question has been thrown out there: Are we tan obsessed? Whether you are striving to get that sexy Greek goddess bronze or even just attempting to look a tad less pasty from winter, dermatologists are now revealing mind-blowing facts that all girls should know before catchin’ some rays (no matter what your tanning style is!).

TANOREXIC: Believe it or not, there is such a thing as being too tan. New Jersey mother, accused of second degree child endangerment after her five year-old daughter came to school displaying a sunburn and saying that she went “tanning with mommy,” is said to frequent the tanning salon more than 20 times per month. The newest addition to The Guinness World Book of Records? Or maybe just the newest addition to the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Either way, we say EW!

Even if you tell yourself that you are “pretty good” about putting on sunscreen, take an oath never to visit a tanning bed, or restrain yourself from going out during peak tanning hours, there is no such thing as being “goodish” about UV rays. Even though safety messages are out there, statistical evidence reveals that people are not complying to warnings as skin cancer rates continue to soar among young adults. In an article by Shaun Dreisbach in Glamour, 76,250 cases of melanoma are expected to be diagnosed in 2012, an increase of 6,020 cases more than in 2011! And who are the victims? Increasingly, women in their 20s are being diagnosed with melanoma and other types of skin cancer because they are not following doctors’ orders. Bottom line: if you are still getting a tan, the effects of sun are still there and should not be poo-pooed.

Calm yourself! Don’t start having sun withdrawals just yet! This does not mean that you need to condemn yourself to a black pit and become an albino hermit for the rest of your life—you should relish in joys of Mother Nature! But as the old health adage goes, everything in moderation…plus pay attention to these 6 tips!

1. Slather it on!
There is the misconception flying around out there that if you put some sunscreen on, that’s good enough. WRONG! Dermatologists agree that we are not applying enough sunscreen before we hit the outdoors. In a Glamour interview with Ellen Marmur, M.D., an associate professor of dermatology and cosmetic and dermatologic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in NYC, the doctor claims that the average person uses a quarter to half the amount of sunscreen that they are supposed to. Experts recommend that you use a quarter cup sunscreen or the thickness of a layer of vanilla frosting. There is no such thing as using too much or too high a SPF, so don’t be stingy!

2. The magic word: Reapply! Reapply! Reapply!
This is the most common mistake women make and the most important one to avoid. The Rule: Every two hours and hourly if you are sweating, swimming, or hitting the peak hours of the sun. Over time, the UV blockers in sunscreen start to disintegrate and become ineffective, increasing your burning risk by five times for every two and a half hours you go without reapplying. Tip: stock up your phone with reminder alarms so you don’t forget! Also, opt for a higher SPF, but don’t be fooled into thinking you are invincible. You may be wearing SPF 50 or more, however that doesn’t give you the immunity to sit in the sun all day—you still have to stick to the magic word and REAPPLY!

3. Hands, shoulders, knees and toes
Most women worry too much about their face and not enough about the rest of their bodies. However, no place is safe! Sun damage can occur anywhere and everywhere you are not protected. Remember to put sunscreen on the back of your hands, neck, chest, even your ears and feet! Even though your face may look like 10 years younger, your body will look 10 years older if you don’t cover yourself from head to toe…literally.

SUN, SUN GO AWAY! Up to 90 percent of visible signs commonly blamed on aging are caused by the sun, states Elizabeth K. Hale, M.D., a New York City dermatologist and vice chair of the Skin Cancer Foundation. So slather on that sunscreen!

4. Self-tanner ≠ sunscreen
Self tanning may give the miraculous illusion of a real tan, but the key word here is illusion. Many women use self-tanners in order to shorten the tanning gap between their wintery whiteness and their August bronze, however a fake tan does not serve as a base tan and will not protect you against sunburn. You still need to slather on that sunscreen!

Studies have shown that tanning is a likely addiction, inducing the same chemical reactions and “happy feelings” as other addictive substances, such as cigarettes. The Glamour article revealed that frequenting tanning beds gave users the identical high as drug addicts. Scary, right? Experts are referring to Ms. Krentcil’s condition as “tanorexia,” and she is living proof that tanning can become more than an obsession, a lifestyle even. Tanning beds are one of the leading causes of deadly melanoma. How to avoid falling into the trap…or bed for that matter? End the relationship with your tanning salon sooner rather than later.

6. Binging is NOT better.
A scenario experts call “sunbursting,” or spending prolonged periods of time in the sun all at once, is a common phenomenon among young women. Contrary to popular thought, tanning intensely over a short period of time is just as bad for you as tanning in shorter increments over a long amount of time and is more likely to be the source of malignant skin cancer. So, next time you hit up Hawaii for a week, still take all the necessary precautions: bring a hat, sit in the shade, and you guessed it, REAPPLY, REAPPY, REAPPLY!

In order to steer clear of looking like a shriveled up prune in the future and more importantly to minimize your chances of developing potentially deadly skin cancer, take these 6 precautions before you begin to take on Ms. Krentcil’s leathery troll look…which I don’t think will be “trendy” anytime soon.


Photo Credits:

Madeline Hunt is a senior at UCLA majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in Spanish. Originally from the laidback beach-town of Santa Barbara, the California native finds the fast-paced nature and eccentricity of LA extremely exciting. Once more, she decided to expand her horizons when she studied abroad this past fall in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Madeline wants to pursue a career in the entertainment industry and is considering broadcast journalism and public relations as potential options. On campus, she is currently the Public Relations & Marketing Director for the student- run organization Fashion and Student Trends and an intern at E! News. She served as an entertainment reporter on UCLA’s accredited student newspaper, The Daily Bruin, under the video division and is a current member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. During her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, exercising, going to the beach, shopping (online shopping will be the death of her!), reading Glamour and Cosmo, eating Mexican food and sushi, spending time with her friends, practicing her Spanish, and satisfying her weakness for caffeine with Starbuck’s lattes.
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