If you’ve followed my blog for the past week or so, you’ll know I had the blessing of going to a tanning bed for the first time. The good news is, the tanning bed appears to be working better/faster than any of the other things I’ve tried so far. The bad news is that tanning beds are terrifying.
Tanning is not something I was excited to trying given its link to skin cancer. From what I read online, people had results after spending less than 15 minutes every other day in the bed. I figured that short amount of time couldn’t be too harmful.
When I walked in to the nearest tanning salon, I told the woman behind the counter that I didn’t care about the color of my skin. I was there for therapeutic purposes. After some nervous chit-chat about how I never saw tanning as a health benefit, the woman told me tanning can have other benefits. Apparently, it can help with depression and a few other mental issues. She herself found the experience relaxing.
After my tour, she set me up in the beginner room. There was a timer counting down from eight minutes. That’s how long I had to disrobe, put on the tanning lotion and jump in. Did you know you can’t use suntan lotion in a tanning bed? It ruins the bed. Instead, I bought a special lotion whose purpose is to allow the rays to penetrate the skin further. I think it’s supposed to make the tan happen faster, but I’m not sure.
You have to work up to a 15+ minute session. Being my first time ever in a bed, they set me up for six minutes. I laid there with my eye protection, the radio on, waiting for the bed to start before I closed it on myself. The woman behind the counter told me it was big inside so claustrophobia wouldn’t be an issue unless I had it really bad (apparently there are tanning beds where the top is literally right on your face).
The machine clicked on and I closed myself into the bed. Almost immediately, I worried my eye protection wouldn’t stay on. The fans were running at my head and feet and this loud tumbling sound fought to dominate the sound of the radio in the background. I felt like the machine was vibrating slightly, although that may have been me. I was the opposite of comfortable and had no idea what to expect. Breathing deeply through my nose, I put all my focus on the radio.
Another fear of mine was that there would be a mistake and I’d actually be there for longer than six minutes. Focusing on the music, I told myself I’d get out after two songs. Two songs and six minutes would have passed. When everything finally clicked off, the second song wasn’t quite over.
Despite my anxiety towards tanning, the experience felt short. I walked out the door less than 20 minutes after I walked in, astounded that anyone could find that experience comfortable, relaxing or therapeutic. It must be something you have to get used to.
I had three sessions last week, which seem to be working. A part of me wonders if this is an illusion. Perhaps the rest of my skin is simply turning to a color similar to the color of the marks. That’s still better than nothing. If nothing else, the improvement in my skin gave me more confidence to pull off Tifa Lockhart.
Tanning is still terrifying and I’ll never go back once this is all cleared up. Still, my opinion on the practice has shifted just a bit. Perhaps tanning, when done right and not in excess, can cause a benefit. Maybe it doesn’t have to cause cancer. A quick Google search found people with psoriasis and eczema have seen significant benefits from tanning, although most sites recommend phototherapy overseen by a doctor over the traditional tanning bed. That’s great if you have that option, but since my doctor’s prescription was ‘there’s nothing I can do,’ I have to take this into my own hands.
Still, I find myself asking, is tanning really that bad? I’m not denying it causes cancer, especially when done in excess, but a lot of other things can do that, too.
One of the first results I found when searching for tanning bed benefits was a WebMD article from 2009. The feel of the article is that tanning causes cancer and should be avoided at all cost, but the quote from the researcher states, “We were not able to examine possible causes for this increase [in cancer], but there is a lot of evidence that it is related to tanning.” So, if I’m understanding this right, there is correlation between the increasing number of people who tan and the increasing number of people who get skin cancer, not causation? This was written in 2009, we probably have causation by now, right?
I guess the jury is really still out in my head. Eating sugar in excess, meat in excess or consuming alcohol in excess has also been linked to cancer and many other health conditions. I don’t see the World Health Organization promoting the idea these activities should be completely abandoned. The key is moderation. Perhaps tanning is in that group, too, safe with moderation.
Have you ever used a tanning bed before? How did you feel laying there? What do you think about the cancer worries surrounding tanning? Can tanning be therapeutic with moderation? How much tanning would you consider excess?