Sunkissed without the sun

Students weigh the benefits and disadvantages of tanning

Coco Browning and Nathania Chao

As San Francisco warms up, some Convent students are turning to fake tan methods as a way to keep their skin sunkissed. 

“I think tanning is the perfect kind of accessory,” junior Lucy Selcow said. “It can easily be applied at home and having a good tan can make you feel more confident.”

There are a number of different methods to achieve bronzed skin. Three of the most popular methods are tanning beds, spray tans and tanning lotions or drops. 

A study at the University of North Carolina found that around 263,000 of US skin cancer cases in 2015 were caused by tanning beds, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

“I personally haven’t done any research on the safety of tanning lotions but I know the beds are really dangerous,” freshman Sophie Levy said. “The UV rays in the beds greatly increase a person’s risk of skin cancer.”

People who tan in tanning beds are 75% more likely to develop skin cancer over someone who has never tanned indoors, according to the Health Research Funding website. 

“The purpose of tanning beds is to darken your melanin, your skin pigment, which can damage your cells,” science teacher Jessica Yates said. “When the cells in your body are replicating, a part of the replication process goes wrong and the cells continue to divide uncontrollably which can ultimately cause cancer.”

Spray tans and tanning lotions or drops are safer alternatives to tanning beds. A variety of tanning lotions and sprays, ranging in color, can be found at most cosmetic stores. Many tanning salons also offer spray tans. 

“When I tan for cheer competitions, I like to get a spray tan because it comes out more even than when I use lotions at home,” junior Amaliya Sypult said. “I usually use tanning drops on my face so I can have more control over the color.”

Tanning lotions and drops can cause skin irritation and nausea but they will not permanently damage your skin the way tanning beds can. Spray tanning is also relatively low risk although it is best to avoid inhaling the spray as the chemicals can hurt your lungs.

Tanning lotions and spray tans are safer substitutes compared to outdoor tanning, according to Piedmont Healthcare. Fake tanning will not protect your skin from the sun and you can still develop major skin damage or skin cancer if you use tanning lotions as a replacement for sunscreen. 

“Sunburns can cause wrinkles and dark spots,” Yates said. “Later in life, people are so thankful that they protected their skin by using sunscreen and staying out of the sun.”

While many people tan for a boost of confidence or because they want to feel like it’s summer all year long, others feel pressured to tan because they live in a society where tan skin is considered more beautiful. Teenage girls can be affected by these ideas when they see images of models and celebrities with glowing skin on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. 

“At the moment, tan skin is a huge part of the beauty standard,” Selcow said. “Many of the beautiful women teenage girls are exposed to have a very sunkissed and bronzed look.”

Not only has social media promoted tan skin, but influencers have also used to make tanning more accessible to teenage girls. There are millions of videos of people sharing their favorite tanning products and tips and tricks on how to achieve a flawless tan at home. 

Many people are motivated to tan because it makes them feel pretty and self-assured. While it is important to feel proud of oneself, one must be wary about the risks that come with tanning. 

“People should do whatever makes them feel confident and beautiful,” Selcow said. “But, it’s also important to be healthy and treat your body well. Sometimes certain types of tanning can be dangerous and the risks can outweigh the benefits.”