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Spending too much time in a booth?

Students use tanning salons despite the risks

By Morgan Lee Fowler
On April 12, 2011

As a young woman, Meghan Cole started tanning. She had only gone tanning at a few various salons until she "pushed the limit and went in longer," and ended up burning herself in the process.

"I remember the itching and the burning in my bed; I was tossing and turning," Cole said. It was one the worst burns she had experienced, leaving her unable to sit on a chair for over an hour and a half after she went tanning.

Tanning in a salon can be just as dangerous as getting burned on the beach from the sun. Some people go to a salon for tanning because they don't have the time to go tanning in the sun, according to Cole, 20, from Newburyport, Mass., who is in a Northern Essex transition to college program for G.E.D. students.

People go tanning for different reasons, whether it is to feel better about themselves or to help them with an illness they have.

"Lots of people tan for lots of different reasons whether it is because they like the way they look or because they like the feeling of it," said Ginny Raboin, owner of Fresh Look Salon in Northfield, Vt. "It is relaxing; it's that 10 minutes of the day that they can have just for themselves."

Raboin said she tans because, "It's a very positive thing and it makes you feel a lot better about yourself."

Having arthritis and various other medical issues, Raboin tans "when something's bothering me and it seems to relieve some of the pain and stress associated with that."

Another tanner, Tammy Jennings, an administrative receptionist at Turning Point Incorporated, said she has an illness called psoriasis (a common chronic, inflammatory skin disease characterized by scaly patches) and because of this it was necessary for her to go tanning in a salon for the Vitamin D.

According to the website Teens Health, "When summer looms, many people start considering the best way to get that sun-bronzed glow — turning to self-tanners, tanning booths, a stretch in the sun, or a combination of these."

Karissa Doyon, 21, a senior criminal justice major from Beecher Falls, Vt., said she feels better when she tans. "I do it just to feel good," she said.

Raboin said, "We encourage healthy tanning no sooner than every 48 hours," at her tanning and hair salon.

Christine Daniels, 22, a senior criminal justice major from Concord, N.H., said that she tans because it makes her feel better about herself and she just enjoys tanning.

Some people see celebrities tan and feel that tanning will make them similar to those celebrities, Doyon said.

According to Cole, people tan to be pretty and, "If you're going to the beach and you're pale it's not as attractive as if you were a tan girl." Being pretty today or "skinny and thin, it's the new fad," just as much as tanning is.

Erin Clark, 19, a freshman biology major from Bradford, Vt., said tanning makes a person feel better about themselves and makes them look better as well.

People start tanning at different times in their lives.

Daniels stated that she began tanning at the age of 15. She said she would go every once in a while and then she began to work at a tanning salon and "went all the time."

She continued going tanning even after leaving her job at the salon, but not nearly as much as she used to when she had been working there.

"The endorphins in your body just make you feel better about yourself and then I feel like when I'm tanner I look better and then if I'm pale I look sick or something," she said.

According to Doyon, she started tanning when she was a sophomore in high school because she had many events going on such as prom.

Cole said that she only goes tanning two to three times a year and goes because it makes her feel pretty.  "I can see results right away (and) I feel like I'm darker," she said.

Jennings goes tanning about six times a year and has been "tanning since the year 2000 or so off and on for 11 years."     

"(I will tan) often in the summer time if I am attending a gym that offers free tanning with my membership," Jennings said. She uses the tanning booth mostly because of her psoriasis and she tries not to abuse going tanning in a salon.

"I do know that tanning is addicting. I watch a lot of young people do multiple tannings and I think the rays do something too," Jennings said. "Some people do enjoy getting the color and the tanning aspect of tanning but I feel bad that young people don't educate themselves enough about tanning booths to know that it can be dangerous if you overdo it."

Tanning in a bed is can be a more time-savvy alternative to going to the beach to get a natural tan, but it does come with risks.

Skin cancer is the biggest risk of tanning in a salon, Clark said. "I mean, you have to get burnt a lot and you have to do it regularly."

Tanners need to check themselves frequently and go to a doctor if they have any suspicions of skin cancer.  

"I believe that tanning is a very positive thing (and) that it's not harmful to your skin in the same ways as going out in the sun and being out there and burning to a crisp is," Raboin said. "Tanning is a controlled environment. I am very concerned about keeping it a controlled environment. I don't want people to burn. I want people to tan responsibly and healthy."

Daniels states that tanning in a salon could possibly be the number-one leading cause of many different types of cancers.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, "A  recent report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, concludes that tanning devices are more dangerous than previously thought. Exposure to UV radiation, whether from the sun or indoor tanning beds, can cause: Skin cancer, skin burns."

Skin diseases are causes of tanning in a salon bed or if someone has "sort of catchable disease or something if they don't clean the bed you can get it," Cole said. Young girls who become addicted to tanning as well are at a great risk. Too much tanning makes their skin look "cracked and burned and too tan is gross."

Jennings is concerned about melanomas and skin cancers because she experienced sun poisoning many years before.

People go tanning even though they know the risks.

"I understand the whole cancer aspect but if you control it and if you don't do it excessively like once a week or once every two weeks just to keep a base you should be fine," Doyon said. "But if you see abnormal moles you should go check that out."

According to, "Because tanning salons can be found just about everywhere, young people perceive them to be safe. After all, why would tanning salons be open if they weren't safe? This is often the logic of teens and young adults who enjoy salon tanning."

Daniels goes tanning in a salon even though she knows the risks, but says that if she had to stop she would. "I just feel like tanning. I'm young."

"Everybody thinks it (skin cancers) can't happen to them so when you're going in (to a tanning booth) you're like, ‘I don't go that often so whatever it's not going to happen to me,'" Cole said.


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