Having a Tan Doesn’t Make You Healthy

Two separate times this week, I have read a comment online of “that person would look better if they had a tan.”

And on an article written by a dermatologist relating to skin cancer and skin health, a person was actually arguing with the dermatologist and saying that what the dermatologist said was bunk (okay, the commenter didn’t really use the word ‘bunk’ but you get the idea), that the dermatologist didn’t know what she was talking about, and that people should go to the tanning bed in winter to get their Vitamin D.

People swayed by what they read about tanning

This, my friends, is ignorance at its finest. And, to me, it is infuriating. I don’t feel there is enough awareness as it is about the dangers of tanning beds and over-exposure to the sun and the resultant skin cancer. Too many people don’t take skin cancer seriously or just don’t know about skin cancer (I know I never gave it a second thought until I was diagnosed with it) and, unfortunately, too many people are swayed by what they read online. If it is online it must be true, right?!?

I didn’t notice any credentials beside the commenter’s name who was arguing with the dermatologist, but I have a suspicion she either (1) strongly believed that people must get their Vitamin D from a tanning bed in the winter, or (2) wanted to strongly believe that people must get their Vitamin D from a tanning bed in the winter so she could feel better about going to the tanning bed.

A tan doesn't improve appearance

All I could do is shake my head. Oh, how I wish people didn’t hold these misguided beliefs. First, people do not NEED a tan so they look better. Someone who has a tan in reality has damaged skin. Those deep, dark tans could very well be setting people up for sunspots, wrinkles, leathery skin, and perhaps even skin cancer down the road. That’s a very big price to pay for having a tan to “look good.”

Better ways to get vitamin D

And second, people should NOT go to a tanning bed in the winter, nor in the spring, nor in the summer, nor in the fall. Yes, sunshine is a good source of vitamin D, but one does not need hours of exposure (and definitely not a tanning bed) to reap benefits. In several articles I reviewed online, the amount of time for suggested sun exposure varied slightly, but it seemed that a majority agreed that 10 or 15 minutes of sun on the arms and legs a few times a week would provide the needed Vitamin D. A short stroll around the block could provide not only Vitamin D, but also some exercise. Doesn’t that sound better than lying in a tanning bed burning your skin?

Vitamin D can also be attained from the foods we eat. Milk, salmon, eggs, cereals, and orange juice (freshly squeezed is best) are all great sources of Vitamin D, as are cheese and canned tuna. Vitamin D supplements are also available, but you may want to discuss with your doctor taking the supplements so you can be sure you are taking the correct amount.

Bottom line – you can be healthy without having a tan. Take good care of your skin, and take good care of yourself!

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