The harmful lifestyle: tanning obsessions

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Three years ago, Robin M. Kahn, senior childhood studies major, became addicted to tanning salons.

Minutes not spent at the salon created anxiety for Kahn, as she feared her skin would lose its color if she stopped tanning.

Kahn said she went “four to five times a week.” She did not want to go out of town for long periods of time, such as family vacations, because she was not able to tan.

Continual visits to the salon left her with a desire to be more attractive, Kahn said. She thought that if she tanned enough, she would be considered more beautiful.

“I had the mentality of ‘looking good now’ was more important than what could potentially happen to me later in life,” Kahn said.

In 2009, the student’s mother passed away from cancer. Kahn said it was then that she realized the implications that came with excessive exposure to UVA and UVB rays.

“I made it my New Year’s resolution that year to quit using the tanning beds,” Kahn said. “I experienced firsthand how cancer can affect a family. I have not been back in a tanning bed since.”

Kahn said tanning was worth it at the time, but the end result revealed a much deeper truth.

“Looking at the bigger picture, being diagnosed with skin cancer and all that comes with that is not worth a temporary-tanned physique,” Kahn said.

For Kahn, no one at the salon ever warned her about the risks of tanning. However, Hayli E. Pierpoint, junior psychology major and previous tanning salon employee, said speaking with customers about the risks associated with tanning beds was not uncommon.

“We talked about the risks but also the ways of best preventing them,” Pierpoint said.

In order to sell the product more efficiently, Pierpoint was encouraged to tan as an employee. She said she was told to look the part in hopes of making more commission.

“They gave me a free tanning package, a higher level one at a reduced price and told me that they like their employees to be tan,” Pierpoint said.

Kahn said she hopes people see the dangers tanning can cause but knows society and media are more likely to change a person’s mind than seeing someone die of cancer.

“The popularity of MTV’s ‘The Jersey Shore’ screams to the world that being tan is an essential part to looking good,” Kahn said. “It is amazing to me how cultures are so different from one another.”

According to Pierpoint, it was not just women coming into tan all the time. Guys came in just as often.

Seeing the effects tanning had on her family and its affects on society ultimately changed Kahn’s perspective. Instead of focusing on the beauty tanning could provide temporarily, she said she focused on what she wanted, which was a healthy life.

“Nothing temporary like a tan is worth the possibility of a permanent death,” Kahn said.

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