A clock timer runs continuously inside a tanning bed.

My Tanning Habit: Let’s Do the Math

Let’s cut right to the chase. Tanning is dangerous.

Tanning leads to skin cancer

Tanning can and, for far too many of us does, lead to skin cancers including melanoma. Visiting tanning salons is simply not smart. When it comes right down to it, tanning is an addiction.

I wanted to be tan so badly

I spent a great deal of my life trying desperately to achieve and keep a tan. Virtually all of that time was spent in vain due to my fair, freckled skin, and strawberry blonde hair. That didn’t stop me from trying. Hopefully, the following breakdown will convince you that you need to stop, or better yet, never start tanning. Hang onto your hats, folks. I am about to show you exactly how much of my time was wasted on tanning.

The math: it’s elementary!

Beginning in August of 1992, I started using tanning salons regularly. I started slowly with some caution because I had heard a few tall tales about the beds “frying your insides.” I was willing to overlook some of the wild stories if I was able to tan my stark white skin. I quickly escalated to the max of 20 minutes per session and made sure I was there at least 3 times a week. We are going to set aside those few 5 minute visits I made in the first weeks. They aren’t irrelevant; you can tack them onto the total when we are done.

20 min. X 3 times  = 1 hour weekly

…but that was just salon number one.

Fitting a tan in between classes

When I began using tanning salons in 1992, I was in my first year of college and commuted to a town about 30 minutes from home. The feeling of not just wanting but needing to feel the heat on my skin and smell tropical-scented tanning accelerator was enough to make me purchase tanning bed visits in the town where my college was located. That way, I could stop by between my morning classes and my evening one before heading home.

20 min. X 1 time = 20 min. weekly

…sometimes it was twice, but you can add that to the end if you like. For the purposes of this math problem, I am keeping this number out of the mix, but you get the idea.

Let's estimate

It’s impossible to travel back in time and add in all the extra visits I made over the years in preparation for vacations, family gatherings, or special events. There was always a feeling in the back of my mind that I was never quite tan enough. That nagging thought led me to increase my tanning bed usage from April to September to beginning in February and not stopping some years until late October.

20 min. X 3 times/week = 1 hour

1 hour/week X 36 weeks = 36 hours/year

Fifteen years

My lesson wasn’t learned until I had spent a total of 15 years visiting tanning salons on an all-too regular basis. 1992 saw the beginning of college and tanning, and 2007 saw tanning's abrupt end with the introduction of skin cancer into my life and the lives of my children.

36 hours/year X 15 years = 540 hours

540 hours = 22.5 days

I tanned for how long?!

I missed 22.5+ days cooking my skin and creating a lifetime of precancers that would eventually wreak havoc on my life. Let's also add in all the extra visits, the time spent driving to and from salons, and intentional hours I spent in the sun unprotected hoping to make my tan last until the next visit.

20 min. 3 times/week

9 months per year

15 years

22.5 plus days

15 years of my life

And my dedicated tanning only lasted 15 years. Let that sink in.

Have you given up tanning after a skin cancer diagnosis? Have you thought about how much time you dedicated to the habit? Tell us about it in the comments.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The SkinCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.