It’s about time. That was my first thought when, in early October, California’s governor announced that he had signed into law a bill that prevents children under eighteen from using tanning beds, effective Jan. 1, 2012. Although thirty other states have some age restrictions, California is the first to set the bar so high.
It’s no secret that tanning beds cause cancer. But new research published on October 6, 2011 by the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggests that the main type of ultraviolet rays used in tanning beds—UVA1— may penetrate to the deep layer of skin that is most vulnerable to the cancer-causing changes caused by UV rays. Basically, skipping the tanning bed is a no-brainer—like cigarettes, or putting your hand on a hot stove, you’re going to get burned.
And yet, my second thought was: I am such a hypocrite! I spent my teenage years outside without a lick of sunscreen on and my college years roasting on a black-tar roof. I always hit the tanning bed a few times before tropical vacations to create that (completely bogus) “base” tan that would purportedly prevent me from burning. Today I don’t leave the house without at least an SPF 30, don’t spend time outdoors without a hat, and wouldn’t be caught dead (pardon the pun) in a tanning bed. And yet . . . I still love to look tan. A little color makes me feel sunnier, younger, prettier. Maybe it’s the media, maybe it’s a status symbol, or maybe it’s part of our genetic makeup to want what we don’t have (golden skin, thick hair, blue eyes, etc.). Either way, what sort of message does it send to not love the healthy skin you’re in? As someone who makes a living writing about outer beauty, I’m committed to taking more responsibility for the messages I send readers, and the ones we pass on to younger generations.