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4 Scary Truths You Didn’t Know About Going Tanning


We’ve heard it a million times. Tanning gives you skin cancer. But did you know that’s not the only nasty thing you can take home from the salon? Although you may feel like the only pale one amongst your friends sporting their fresh-off-the-beach spring break glow, you will want to read this before you buy that $30 unlimited tanning package you’ve been eyeing since last year.

Although we know the risks of tanning, many collegiettes will still sacrifice their future health for a more bronzed look. If you’re not afraid of sunspots or wrinkles in your old age, taking home any of the following things might turn you off of fake baking for good. I encourage you to read these four things before you soak up those UV rays. If you’re not careful, you might just leave with more than just a temporary bronzed glow.

1. Pink Eye

In order to avoid things like cataracts and snow blindness (the temporary loss of vision), salons encourage the use of tanning goggles. Often times, these goggles are waiting for you when you enter the room with the tanning bed. The routine practice of cleaning these goggles usually consists of placing them in jars of solution that will clear them of all germs. However, if not properly cleaned, bacteria can live on the goggles and spread from person to person. Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is a common infection of the eye that results in the inflammation of the conjunctiva, giving your eye a red appearance and causing discomfort and a burning sensation. While this infection is already extremely contagious on its own, the bacteria can stay alive longer and breed in the heat of tanning beds, causing a greater risk to the tanning bed frequenters. At the University of Illinois, the risk of getting pink eye was particularly high in the winter of 2013. One student, Sarah, remembers the infection spreading throughout her sorority house in a matter of days. “We were all tanning before winter formal,” Sarah recalls. “Three of us woke up to the unpleasant surprise of pink eye the morning before formal. Not ideal.”

If you must tan: Bring a pair of your own tanning goggles. If you don’t have a pair almost every salon sells one-time-use “winky” stickers to cover your eyes.

2. Staph Infection


Staphylococcus, the bacterium that causes Staph infections, is another form of bacteria that may live in your local tanning beds. Staph infections are often listed as the second-highest risk in tanning. The infection is caused when the bacteria penetrate a small opening, like a cut, in the skin. Their appearance ranges from small bumps to flesh-eating infections. In the most severe cases, Staph infections can lead to death. They are treated with antibiotics but in 50% of cases, the body is resistant to the medicine. In order to avoid the risk of getting a Staph infection, a tanning salon must be extremely clean, spraying, and wiping down the beds after each use. If you’re concerned you may have a Staph infection, check your body for any open wounds or cuts that are painful to the touch. It is important to take notice of boils or uncomfortable swelling that accompanies these lesions. Another way to check if you have an infection is to feel your lymph nodes in your neck or under your armpits. If you do have an infection, they will be swollen and feel harder than normal.


If you must tan: Make sure you’re going to a salon that has a high rating on a site like yelp.com to help assure the cleanliness of the salon. Chances are if the salon has lots of customers and a good reputation, it will be sanitary. 

3. Saggy Boobs

Sunburns, as we all well know, are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. When in the salon, most tanners opt to go au-natural and skip the bra. However, the harm in this is the possible burning of the skin below your boobs. Frequent exposure to the sun causes wrinkles in the skin, and the delicate skin under the breasts is very susceptible to burning because it isn’t typically exposed to UV light. When this happens the skin loses its elasticity and yep, you guessed it! Your boobs may lose their perk, leaving you with boobs well beyond your years. 

If you must tan: Tan in your swimsuit to avoid the risks of burning areas of your body not frequently exposed to the sun.

4. Discolored Nipples

Your nipples are just like the skin everywhere else on your body, meaning yes, they will tan. So if you’re not naturally dark, don’t be surprised if you go tanning and they eventually turn a different shade than their normal hue, which might look strange to you if it’s not what you’re used to. And keep in mind: they also have the ability to burn! While it isn’t particularly dangerous if your nipples become discolored, it can be rather painful if it results in a burn due to the sensitivity of the skin.

If you must tan: Some tanning salons sell covers to keep your nipples from changing shades if you still opt to not wear a swimsuit or bra when you tan.

Hopefully, you’ve gained some insight into the crazy (and scary) things you can pick up after a quick trip to the tanning booth.  Between these risks and the deadly risk of skin cancer, we may be saying goodbye to tanning beds for good. But if you still plan on frequenting the tanning bed, remember to use our tips to avoid any mishaps!




Caroline Finnegan is a rising junior in the College of Media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying news editorial journalism. She is the Contributing Editor and Weekly Columnist of  U of I’s branch of The Odyssey, a Greek newspaper, as well as the leader of ceremonial services and ritualistic practices of her sorority Kappa Alpha Theta. She is currently working for a music promotions company and at her mom’s clothing store. Caroline hails from the Windy City and prefers everything Chicago style, including sailing on Lake Michigan, Jonathon Toews (and the Blackhawks), Wrigley Field and of course, Oprah. Some of her favorite things include: biographies, New Orleans. singing cards, and elephants. She aspires to become a writer for a television show like Saturday Night Live, or her favorite, Modern Family. Next Spring, she plans on studying in her Grandpa’s homeland of Italy. 
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