Wednesday, March 14, 2012

To Tan or Not to Tan; well now that's the question

“There’s a fine line between getting a tan and looking like you rolled in Doritos”
One of the main things I look forward to every summer is lying by the pool in the sun and working on my tan. I like being tan. Not Snooki tan but not Kristen Stewart white either. Mostly because during the summer it is so hot and I like to wear the smallest amount of clothing possible. I’ve heard all about spray tans, I’ve tried the gradual tanning lotions and I know that it’s “so unhealthy” but I love a nice honey kissed tan and all my freckles. This is where people reading this will either go ‘yup, I love not blinding people when I wear shorts’ or ‘do you have any idea what you’re skin could look like in 20 years?!’ I say this because most people are on one side of the fence or the other when it comes to tanning.
I don’t think that getting a little sun is totally bad. Saying that the sun can cause cancer, so we should avoid it all together is like saying you can drown in water, so you should stay away from it completely. Your main choices are tanning beds or stand up tanning booths (my personal preference), lying out in the sun (also a big fave), spray on tans or gradual tanning lotions. However, there is also a new method. It’s done at dermatologists offices. Professionals apply a controlled amount of UV rays in a procedure called phototherapy sessions. Psoriasis patients pay around $85 per session with an average of 35 sessions per year. If tanning salons went out of business, dermatologists would gain $5 billion dollars in phototherapy sessions.
In the 1800s tan skin was related to the lower class that had to do manual labor out in the sun. This meant that pale skin was a sign of wealth and status. This began to change when the Industrial Revolution came about. Factories moved the working class inside and the wealthy were able to take vacations to Florida where they would lay in the sun all day. This is when American went from idolizing peaches and cream to worshipping the golden brown goddess. Even doctors said that the sun was healthy for people, sort of a dose of vitamin D. This was so strongly believed that mothers were even advised to leave their babies out in the sun for a certain amount of time each day. While it is important to still have a diet healthy with vitamin D, such as cheese and eggs, the amount of UV one gets on an average daily basis, while walking the dog for example, is usually enough for the human body.
Despite the aggressive anti-sun propaganda brought on by the American Academy of Dermatology, an estimated 28 million Americans still flock to tanning salons each year. Sun screen is proclaimed to be the main necessity in protecting ourselves from the risk of melanoma, and is in fact a multi-billion dollar a year industry controlled by a hand full of people. It also blocks 99% of the necessary vitamin D that is provided by the sun. This is why many people do what is called a “base-tan”. It is a layer of tanned skin that acts as a sort of natural sun block. It allows the skin to absorb UVA and UVB rays, along with all its healthy vitamins, while protecting the cells from burning. This is of course not to say that if you have a base tan you can walk around outside for hours and be burn free. It just helps a bit.
The average human should have about 40-60 ng/ml of Vitamin D in their blood. Anything less than 40 is considered deficient. Indoor tanners average 42-49 ng, non tanners are at 22-25 and dermatologists are the most deficient of all with only 13-14 ng found in their blood count. 77% of Americans are believed to be deficient in necessary vitamin d, which has been linked to 105 different diseases, including heart disease, diabetes some forms of cancer. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to nearly 400,000 premature deaths and adds $100 billion burden to our health care system.
So what is the advised amount of sun everyone should get? Well it depends largely on your skin type, are you Anglo-super white? Be very careful with the amount of rays you soak up. Sun block is good if you’re going to be spending extended amounts of time out in the sun. Are you darker? Still be wise with the amount of time you spend under the light. In the end, it doesn’t matter if doctors or officials tell you that you should get sun or that you should avoid it, people are free to do what they want and so when it comes to tanning, I say to each their own.