A woman with a worried expression looks at her phone, which is flashing with alarming messages.

Cringing When I See Someone's Tanned Skin

Had you asked me in 1995 if I thought tanning beds were a problem, I would have clutched my pearls and gasped, “How dare you?”

Today, a different me would answer that question with a resounding, “Absofreakinglutely!”

Every time I see an empty building standing where a tanning salon used to be, I get excited.

Tanning salons are "out"

Then, I round the corner or drive a few miles only to see a different one has opened its doors nearby. Skin cancer awareness has increased in recent years, but tanning salons are still managing to stay afloat. By adding spray tans to their inventory of products and tools, they perpetuate the idea that tanned skin is “in.”

*Hides eyes

Your tan skin embarrases me

Tan skin, skin that is obviously fresh from the UV rays of a tanning bed or a day spent outdoors unprotected isn’t healthy skin, and it embarrases me.

We aren’t talking about my tanned skin–I stopped all that utter nonsense in March of 2007 when a mole removed from my upper arm turned out to be melanoma.

These days, I am embarrassed when I see tanned skin that’s so bright it glows. I suffer from the same type of secondhand embarrassment you get from seeing someone make a fool of themselves on social media.

I feel the need to advocate

The advocate in me wants to grab them by the arm and say, “Skin cancer is real!”

The former tanner in me who still struggles with worrying about how stark my white skin looks knows why they do what they do. I was in the same mental space for 15 years.

But as someone who now recognizes how unnatural tans can look and has heard countless remarks about how tanned skin looks like leather, it’s hard not to scream, “Just stop! Really–there’s no need.”

I’m embarrassed for them, and I am embarrassed thinking of what I must have looked like to others all those years. Sadly, my typical response is to avert my eyes.

Here a cringe, there a cringe

If social media has done nothing else, it has provided us with a plethora of things we can call cringy. Photos of sunburned and deep, dark almost red tans top that list for me. I am as embarrassed seeing photos of tanners as I am running across them in real life.

I have almost reached a point where I don’t want to linger long enough over a photo to determine if it’s someone I know. That only doubles the humiliation. I want better for them–and healthier.

Tanning isn’t smart

More than anything, I want to know that people are smart. I want to be able to say that they know better than to purposely expose themselves to UV rays. How great would it be for everyone to decide to prevent sunburn instead of striving to get one? Every photo of tan lines and sunscorched skin is a cringy reminder of my own stupidity.

I know accidents happen, but intentionally foregoing the SPF is inexcusable when we have so much information about skin cancer at our fingertips 24 hours a day.

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