Blazers feel the heat all year ‘round

Dec. 20, 2001, midnight | By Jennie Breads | 19 years, 1 month ago

Teens maintain bronze complexions, disregarding health hazards associated with salons

For senior Saba Tsegaye, as the wintry wind begins to howl and the mercury starts to plummet, tranquil memories of lazy, sun-drenched summer afternoons are pushed aside by the realization that the complexion of her once-bronze skin has been dissolved by winter's frigid touch.

"I hate the winter because my skin starts getting all pasty and light again," Tsegaye explains as she points in disgust to her pallid forearm.

Like other Blazers who crave those summer shades of tropical tones, Tsegaye resorts to tanning salons as the instant solution to her winter dilemma. "Tanning salons are the quickest and easiest way for me to get that healthy tan look that I want," she says.

Despite the healthful glow that Tsegaye receives from salons, tanning beds may jeopardize the health of customers, says dermatologist Lynn McKinley-Grant. She explains that the UVA and UVB rays at tanning salons are carcinogenic and can cause wrinkles and potentially fatal skin cancers like melanoma and basal cell carcinoma.

Nationally, the number of cases of skin cancer in younger people is rising dramatically, as melanoma is now among the most common cancers diagnosed in people under 30.

As a response, McKinley-Grant warns that teens need to take the necessary precautions now in order to keep their skin healthy. "Any tan you have is damage to your skin, no matter if it comes from the sun or a tanning salon. Skin cancer has a cumulative effect—you won't get it from one time in the sun, but in 20 or 30 years that sun exposure will catch up to you," she warns.

McKinley-Grant advises parents to discourage teens from using tanning beds. "Going to tanning salons is a potentially life-threatening habit that parents shouldn't encourage their children to develop," she says.

Tsegaye claims that her mother didn't want her going to tanning salons. "My mom hated when I went to the salons. Even though she couldn't actually stop me from going, I started to understand where she was coming from," Tsegaye says. As a result, Tsegaye has stopped tanning altogether. "My mom had skin cancer, and I realized that the tan wasn't worth being sick," she adds.

However, according to Melissa Wyman, an employee at Sunscene Tanning, a local tanning salon in Silver Spring, many teens are willing to make certain sacrifices, especially in winter. "Business with teens really picks up here around November and December because people start to lose their summer tans," she notes, pulling up some old records on the computer. "For instance, this teenager has spent $86 since Nov 9, and I usually see her every other day," she says.

Wyman believes that the main reason teens are willing to shed so much money at tanning salons is because they feel the darker look is popular now. "People like having some color on them. For a lot of teens, having a tan represents a healthier appearance," she says.

McKinley-Grant recommends teens to use self-tanners if they want the tanned look without the harmful side effects of salons. "Nowadays, self-tanning products seem much more natural-looking, so they can provide teens with the tan they want without the cancer and wrinkles that they don't want," she says.

Junior Renee Bannerman says she has heard of some self-tanning slip-up stories that leave her hesitant to try any products. "I don't really trust self-tanners. My friend used one once, and she forgot to wash her hands when she finished. Afterwards her fingers turned orange," she laughs. "I would much rather go to a salon!"

Junior Ariel Beck acknowledges the health risks involved in tanning and has limited her visits to salons. "I cut back on going because it was too much of a jolt for my skin," she says. "But I'm not going to stop tanning completely. It's just a risk that I'm willing to take occasionally."

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Jennie Breads. Senior Jennifer Breads is the Managing Health Editor for this year. Aside from writing lots of health stories, Jennifer enjoys playing soccer and lacrosse and she is excited to be part of the Silver Chips team! More »

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