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a woman using a reflector to tan sees a skeleton in her reflection

Reflections on a Bad Idea

Did you ever do anything when you were younger that you now look back on and say to yourself, WHAT WAS I THINKING?

I can remember more than a few things…one of which was the reflective blanket. Remember those? When I was in middle school and high school, girls would slather on the baby oil and/or iodine and lay out on a silver reflective blanket, because strong rays from the sun were needed for a deep, dark tan and the reflective blanket was supposedly going to make those rays even stronger. Nevermind that I had never had a deep, dark tan in my entire life. Nor, with my skin tone, would I ever be able to get one. I suppose I got an A for effort, though (and a C for clueless).

Seeing tanning in pop culture

In one scene of Taylor Swift’s new video for “You Need To Calm Down,” several people are laying out and using a tanning reflector.

In all honesty, it looks pretty silly. And I’m sure I did too, lying on a silver blanket with my oiled up skin. Did I get a tan? No. A sunburn? More than a few. Did that stop me from using the reflective blanket repeatedly, holding on to the hope that I would one day magically be able to get a tan? Not at all.

Sun safety is non-negotiable

This definitely falls in the category of “people, don’t try this at home.” Did you know that according to the American Academy of Dermatology, even one blistering sunburn in childhood can almost double a person’s chance of developing melanoma? And that getting five or more blistering sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 can increase one’s risk of getting non-melanoma skin cancer by 68%?1

According to the American Cancer Society, “both basal cell and squamous cell cancers tend to be found on sun-exposed parts of the body, and their occurrence is typically related to lifetime sun exposure.”2 Meaning that even if you are an adult, you still need to practice sun safety. You can’t undo the damage you did to your skin when you were younger, but you can prevent future damage.

Sun damage is real!

Consider this: even if you didn’t have sunburns and are lucky enough to not get skin cancer, there is a good chance that the years of over-exposure to the sun are going to result in wrinkles, sunspots, and leathery skin.

We could all follow Taylor Swift’s advice of calming down on needing to feel like we have to be tan to look healthy or we have to be tan to look good in our summer outfits. So put down the tanning reflector, put away (actually throw away) the reflective blanket, and embrace the skin you are in.

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.

  1. https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs
  2. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/basal-and-squamous-cell-skin-cancer.html

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