Fake a New Tan, Stan

My college roommate used to say that “tan fat looks better than untanned fat,” as she headed outside to catch some rays.  That was almost three decades ago, before we knew what we know now about the negative impact of sun on our skin.  But studies show that despite growing concerns about skin cancer, the majority of us still find tanned people more attractive and think people with tans look healthier.

I wonder if those survey respondents have been following the story of the New Jersey mom, accused of bringing her daughter into a tanning salon, who many are now calling a “tanorexic.”  Apparently some people are addicted to food, some to alcohol or drugs, and some to tanning.

I have no opinion about the case, since I don’t know enough specific details.  But I will share that I was struck by how very unhealthy this woman appears in all the photos I’ve seen.  I don’t know her personally; I don’t know why she tans as often as she does; I don’t know if she thinks she looks healthier or thinner or more attractive this way.

But what I do know is that doctors will tell you that a tan is an outward sign of skin damage.  And that the sun is a known carcinogen.

Do I think I’d look better with a bit of color on my uber-pale skin?  Maybe.  Okay, probably.  But as a three-time skin cancer survivor, my days of intentionally exposing myself to the sun without protection are long over.

Consider this:

  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
  • One dies of melanoma every 62 minutes.
  • Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than of all other cancers combines.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and today is Melanoma Monday.  So today I am asking you to consider changing the paradigm that tan looks better than au natural.  Or to at least choose to get your tan from a bottle.  And I am encouraging you to take steps to prevent skin cancer for yourself and your loved ones.  The research is very clear:  most skin cancer can be prevented by practicing sun protection.  And it is never too late to start protecting your skin.  And with that said, I’ll hop off my soapbox now:)

To learn more:

Melanoma Monday

The Skin Cancer Foundation

Thoughts about the Jersey tanning mom?  Have you or anyone you know been diagnosed with skin cancer?  Any personal crusades that you’d like to share today?

Photo credit [myFOXny]

The winners of Diane’s book giveaway are Lori and Andie🙂



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64 responses to “Fake a New Tan, Stan

  1. Tanning booths scare me! I’ve never been in one because of the weirdness and claustrophobia of them, but I did spend more than my fair share of time sitting in the sun as a teenager. Not good, but even now I love to sit in the sun. Just to feel the warmth and soak in some Vit D, not for tanning, but that is one of the results.

    • There is something very relaxing about sitting in the sun. It’s kind of sad that I just don’t do it anymore. When I was a teen, my friends and I spent a lot of time “baking” and I got a lot of sunburns, which I am sure contributed to my cancers. Studies show that teens are big users of tanning beds now; maybe they think it is safer.

  2. Frankly (I’ll dive in!!!) I cannot believe that woman thinks she looks okay!

    Sadly I grew up in the 1980s and plastered myself in coconut oil and the like to look more tanned. I have a lot of freckles and moles and hate to think what I might face one day! Nowadays my body never sees sunlight.

    My dad ended up contracting a type of skin cancer impacting on people with suppressed immune systems (he was a transplant recipient) and constantly had stuff removed, but eventually succumbed to cancer last year.

    I have a friend who still uses and sunbed and am horrified!


    • I’m so sorry about your dad:(

      I have lots of freckles all over my body, but only in the places that have seen sun! But they are significantly faded from what they used to be when I wasn’t as careful to keep covered up.

  3. Miz

    Im so so so glad the next generation has the information we did not.
    I cringe thinking we used BABYOIL in the 80s.

    • My friends did that! Oh how times have changed. Although the next generation seem to be the ones who are most likely to tan now. I think the youth always feel invincible.

  4. Great message here – I am married to a multiple time skin cancer survivor who is required to make visits every 3 months to his dermatologist. More often than not, there’s something else to burn, freeze or medicate off his sweet face. As you know, you’re preaching to the choir here, but for anyone else reading, DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!

  5. Thank you for highlighting this and the need to take care of yourself. My message–if you have a questionable spot anywhere see a DERMATOLOGIST. My hairdresser asked me about a spot on my front hairline that my doctor hadn’t been worried about, so I followed up with a derm and it was basal cell carcinoma. I think as long as fahsion magazines use models with bronze tans, girls will continue to bake – with baby oil (I did that too) or at a tanning booth.

    • Your hairdresser rocks! I’m so impressed. The first basal cell on my face I had to ask (more then one derm) about multiple times before it was diagnosed as cancer. The second one, I knew what it was right away and the derm didn’t question me.

  6. I use a tanning bed maybe once a month, because it helps my skin. I get these red, itchy spots that go away for weeks with some sun, so there’s that. I have a lot of moles/birth marks and I’m very careful with sunscreen etc, I’ve even had to remove 5 or 6 if them.

    • I have a cousin, my mom’s generation, who has some skin condition, not sure what it is, and has been tanning under medical supervision for years.

  7. I’ve never tanned and after seeing that woman I never will! Obviously she has some kind of issues with her image but like you, I don’t know her so couldn’t say what they are.

    • Part of the buzz about her that I hear on TV has to do with her potentially having some obsession or some distorted self image. It is interesting, actually, to draw correlations between that and weight/eating issues, IMO.

  8. I haven’t tanned, in or out of a booth, for about 35 years. It was one of the best decisions I made, because my mother and brother both had skin cancers (basal cell and squamous cell). I am probably predisposed, because of a family history. I am now 65 years old, and not tanning has been a big help to my skin texture.

    My latest post also features the “tanning bed mom,” but I took issue with what she said about those who supposedly are against her because they are “fat, ugly, and jealous.” I’m more than a bit tired of overweight people being accused of jealousy toward the thin. I’ve heard it too much from co-workers and even extended family members.

    • I heard that on the news yesterday! Yes, from what my doctors tell, you would be at a higher risk because of the genetic predisposition. I make my boys get checked about once a year or every other. They roll their eyes at me and complain.

  9. Living in Florida and loving to be outside kayaking, biking, walking, sitting etc….I have to be careful. I have been investigating the long sleeve SPF shirts to help.

    Growing up I did the tanning booth and I always looked out of season with other people.

    I do love the energy of the sun — but it is about balance.

    • I’m a big fan of shirts like that! I prefer them over a lot of sunscreen, most times. I also have one for swimming but only use it on vacation, like when I was in Hawaii.

  10. Dermatology is serious big business here! I use sun block every day, and wear sunblock clothing when appropriate.

    I’m glad to see you’re getting this message out, Karen!

    • I’m a fan of those clothes and have several pieces. I’ve also notices that some of the stuff we carry in the store where I work has a UPF factor listed. I wish more clothes did that.

  11. Ewa

    Like many artificial things, I believe tanning booths are evil.
    As for being out in the sun, I try to rely more on clothing than lotions.

    • Yep, I’m a fan too. I have several long sleeve shirts with a high sun protection factor. And, of course, several big brimmed hats. I’ll be wearing one to my son’s outdoor graduation, actually.

  12. I saw that woman on TV, too. It is scary! I love th sun, and all things beachy but have become smarter over the years in regard to my skin care and SPF. I also was of the mindset that having those extra pounds looked better if it had a little color to it rather than pasty white. It’s hard to change that thinking but knowing a few people that have had skin cancer makes me think twice about the repercussions of being vain.

    • Well, the truth is, I do think that tanned less look better. If I’m being honest. I’ve tried self-tanner a time or two with little success at making it easy and look good. Years and years ago it was considered attractive for women to be pale because it meant they didn’t have to do manual labor in the fields. Really.

  13. Honestly, I have to admit, I use to joke about the phrase tanorexia before it became a true statement. Yes, I do would use baby oil by the pool as a young girl.

    But, I just enjoy the sunshine. It makes me feel better. Because of the way my body process Vitamin D, I can actually feel the difference in my moods when I am in the sun.

    But I do not believe in tanning booths and no longer do I sunbathe for hours. I just forget my sunscreen but try to pay attention to that.

    • My mother-in-law (in her mid-80s now) never sat in the sun. Her face is amazingly unwrinkled compared to other women her age. Sagging, yes; wrinkled, not so much.

  14. I saw this story and wanted to cry. At first, before they showed the picture of the lady, I wasn’t sure how I responded besides that it stunk a mom would take her daughter to tanning salon despite all the negative hypes it has. then I saw the mom, and I knew it was more than a little problem. tanning salons frankly scare me, I love the sun and even though with work I won’t have time to be in it a lot, a fake one just is not the way to go.

    • Well, the jury is still out on if she took her daughter or not. My personal guess is that she did take her with her but not into the tanning bed. BUT, it is interesting to now hear conversations about the impact of the mom as someone who is apparently tanning obsessed. It has been compared to a mom who has an eating disorder.

  15. KarenJ

    I’ve never been in a tanning booth, but living near the beach, I spend a lot of time there. Having grown up in the 70’s before we knew about the dangers of the sun, much damage has already been done to my skin that I can’t see. Now that I’m in my 50’s, I wear sunscreen every day. My mom had a melanoma on her eyebrow of all places, and although she survived it, it was pretty scary. I go to the dermatologist once a year to get checked over. I feel so sorry for that woman who obviously doesn’t realize how scary she looks.

    • I’m glad to hear you get checked because I’m sure you know that you are at a 50% higher risk because of your mom’s cancer. I make my boys go and they hate it. I was like you as a kid – laying out on the beach with my friends, despite the fact that I just burned and never tanned. I hated sunscreen and didn’t use it. That has sure changed for me!

  16. My grandmother died of melonoma, so I’m at risk for skin cancer as well. I’m glad your melonoma was found early and you are now cancer-free.

    I tanned and burned as a kid and a teen, especially the years of lifeguarding. I stopped in my early twenties when a younger friend came back from Florida very tanned looking old and leathery.

    I wear sunscreen on my face everyday, including winter. I haven’t had my moles mapped, but perhaps I should look into getting that done.

    • Oh and the NJ woman looks much older than her age. She looks like a grandmother not a mother. She must not see this herself.

    • Sorry about your grandmother. I think most people really don’t realize that melanoma really does kill so many people. I wear a moisturizer every day on my face with an SPF of 30 and if I go outside for any extended period, I add more protection. Of course I wish I’d bought into this years ago.

  17. I’m amazed how many tanning places are still around. I’m in a college town and there are several, obviously doing good business. When I was younger, the thing was to “pre-tan” before spring break. I’ve wised up since then. I like what Jenn said about finding balance with the energy of the sun.

    • I think that young girls are still the biggest users of tanning beds. I know some still tan before prom. It is amazing how many tanning places are around. On TV yesterday I heard a doctor talking about how they should be required to have information/labeling about causing cancer, just like cigarettes.

  18. I’m very careful because I’m fair skinned like you. I haven’t had any problems yet, but go to the dermatologist yearly for a check up.

  19. I’m writing this from the beach! And sunscreen SPF 50 was the first thing I packed.

    The NJ lady — just so sad. I see her and can’t begin to imagine what kind of emotional issues would lead to that kind of self-destruction. Just really sad. I can only hope this situation will eventually be the thing that leads her to realize she needs to see a therapist.

    • I’m glad that I’m not a beach fan:) It would be such a hassle with my fair skin. For me, sunscreen is a necessary evil and I’m glad that it has improved so much in texture over the years.

  20. Thank you Karen for posting this!!!!!!!!!!! Such an important message! I have a friend that has had so many spots cut out of her, she sees the doc every 3-6 months and she is on the cream too. She grew up in Palm Springs. We just did not know this back then…


  21. I’m going on a run soon, and thought about your post (which I read this morning) and put on some sunscreen! 🙂 I really don’t want to get skin cancer, although people with my type of skin/colour aren’t really high risk. Thanks for the post!

    • I didn’t include it in this post, but I have in past ones about this topic, that anyone of any skin color can get skin cancer. AND, the darker your skin, the greater the likelihood that if you do get cancer, it will be caught later and might not have a high a cure rate!

  22. Clearly there are some issues going on with this lady!

    Both of my parents have had skin cancer removed from their faces. My mom use to get very tan every summer by spending hours and hours out in the sun. My dad worked outside. They both have much darker skin than my fair skin!

    Of course I grew up before sun screen and all the knowledge we now have about skin care. I lather in sun screen before heading outside! I can burn in 15 minutes!

    • Me too! I get red so fast. My mom did a lot of tanning over the years; her complexion is not at all like my pale one. I wish I could make my boys think more about this. My younger son, the one in sunny CA, hardly ever uses sunscreen and has gotten lots of exposure. (He just told me the other day about a bad burn on his chest from sitting shirtless outside.)

  23. All I could think when I read that article was, This poor woman! It just goes to show we can’t always trust what we see in the mirror.

    • So true. There is lots of talk about that very thing with her. And questions about why no one in her life is telling her. Maybe they are and she isn’t listening.

  24. I didn’t know what that story was about except that I saw them make fun of her on Saturday Night Live. On the show they said that she brought her child IN THE TANNING BED, which I thought was awful!!!

    • That was the initial charge when she was arrested. She disputes it and the suspicion is that she might have brought her daughter with her into the salon and room but not the bed. The salons says, of course, that kids are not allowed. It all started because the daughter told someone she’d gone tanning with her mom.

  25. You are very kind to say you have no opinion on the case, the woman is obviosly mentally disturbed and I hope that this attention will bering her some help.

    I have loved being in the sun all my life. When I was a kid we didn’t have sunscreen, so much damage was done to my skin early on. We went camping and sailing and we were outside all summer.

    I use sunscreen and wear hats now, but my skin is damaged. We are lucky that there has been no skin cancer in my family. I have asked my GP to check my skin, saying what a sun worshipper I always was. She never does except my face. I gues she thinks it is vanity. One of these days I will have to go out of pocket for a dermatologist check up to make sure everything is ok.

    • Her reactions so far have been very defensive, almost bizarre, IMO. Years ago I read a statistic about how many more skin cancers a dermatologist will catch over a GP. I’m glad that with my insurance plans, horrible as they are, it has never been an issue to go to the derm annually. Of course, except for last year I never meet my deductible so end up paying:( My current derm would like to check me twice a year but I am comfortable only going once.

  26. I am all about sunblock and tanning lotion. I like a little color, but that lady looks crazy! Premature wrinkles and cancer are absolutely not worth it.

  27. Roz@weightingfor50

    Hi Karen. As a daughter of a melanoma survivor (my Dad got melanoma a couple of years ago, and his treatments – not fun…)I CRINGE at this woman. I’m all for “whatever floats your boat”, but she is a walking hazard to herself, and the fact her daughter sees it (and all the “fame” she’s getting right now) and is taught that is is ok is simply awful in my eyes. I feel sorry for them both.

  28. I wrote an article several years ago about the connection between tanning beds and melanoma and interviewed three women who had been diagnosed and survived, as well as the husband of a woman who didn’t. I happened to know the man, although I’d never met his wife. She died a horrible death.

    In the meantime, my stepfather had melanoma late last year and I know a few others.

    As far as this woman goes, I don’t want to be judgmental/hypercritical because, as you said, it might be an addiction. We all have our stuff! But the fact that she took her young daughter gives me pause…and then I started thinking about all the addicted people out there who have kids and who have exposed their kids to their stuff…and well…this was just a more obvious case.

    • Tanning beds are rather scary to me since so many people, particularly young girls, seem to consider them a safer alternative to the sun. I saw a representative for the industry on the Today Show just this week, opposite their doctor, and it was funny to listen to him trying to justify it.

  29. I didn’t know about the month of May.
    My husband told me about that tanning woman (when we were watching the SNL version). So sad.
    I look better with a bit of color too.. but now at my age, just some moisture in my skin looks better than anything.

    • I remember being in my 20s and shopping with my mom when she was buying skin care products and I didn’t use any and didn’t see a need. Ah, if only I’d started back then:)

  30. That’s a scary picture. Great post Karen, we all need to be careful where the sun is concerned. As a teenager I used to lay out on the back deck soaking up the sun and listening to my tunes. I’m pretty light-skinned and had many sunburns over the years. I often wonder if those burns will eventually result in skin cancer. It’s probably time for me to visit a dermatologist and have my skin checked from head to toe and start a record so that any spots can be checked at future visits for abnormal growth. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Yes! That’s exactly what you should do. That is how we caught my melanoma which was behind my knee, where I couldn’t see it. The doctor asked me, “Has this mole always been two colors?” And I suggested she look at her notes from the last exam. Of course, then she wasn’t worried about rushing to get it off; she had a very busy practice. I didn’t like waiting several months so switched doctors and had it off within 2 weeks and, sure enough, melanoma. Acting faster might have made all the difference for me now being cancer-free since it was caught before it had spread.

  31. A gym friend who had already had skin cancer told me to always wear a hat outside, even on a cloudy day. I do. It was a caring comment, as is this post.

    🙂 Marion

    • I’ve hesitated to say things to people. My husband knows that when I see suspicious looking mole I soooo want to tell that person to get to the dermatologist!

  32. I can tell you what that woman in the pix looks like – someone who has char-broiled and toasted her skin, burned it to a crisp. Her skin is destroyed and she thinks it looks great. I’ve know many women here in our area who think the same thing (and bleach their hair white or light blonde, too). I think what happens is that they get so used to seeing themselves that way that anything else looks wrong to them. No matter how many people try to intervene, they are convinced they look good.

    My mom warned me when I was in my 20’s (with untanable skin) to be glad I couldn’t tan because too many women who did had skin that looked like leather suitcases in their 30’s. She was right. In my 30’s so many friends DID look that way. I’m in my late 50’s now and am SO GLAD I listened to her and gave up trying to tan.

    I do take Astaxanthin now which has helped me be able to go out in the sun enough to bet my Vitamin D (and not burn, a miracle). It is wonderful to finally be able to be outside without freaking about it!

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