My prayer went something like this: “Please forgive me for the damage I am about to do, but please give me a nice glow and please don’t let me get skin cancer.” And then I pressed the little button to start the tanning bed and began sizzling like a strip of bacon.
This post is coming after a recent, traumatizing trip to the makeup counter. I use mineral makeup, usually in the color Medium-Beige. I knew my makeup was looking a bit Oompa-Loompa-ish lately, so I shouldn’t have been so shocked when the girl behind the counter handed down the news. I have been downgraded from Medium-Beige to Fairly Light.
This information sent me into a downward spiral of increasingly dramatic questions. Why am I so pale? Do I look like a Fairly Light ghost? Where are my ¼ Italian genes? And most importantly, why do I live in a place with such horrific winters?
The truth is, winter is tough for me. Since I was 13 I’ve experienced symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder—basically a severe form of Winter Blues) brought on by overcast days. My love of sun even convinced me to transfer from the University of Utah to Arizona State my junior year, and every morning in Phoenix I got a tiny tear in my eye when I walked out my front door and saw the big, blue open sky…. But I digress. The truth is—we in our human bodies need sunlight. We need it for our moods, our bones, our Vitamin D supplies, and our happiness. It’s natural, it’s healthy, it’s wonderful.
I know you know why you shouldn’t be tanning. Cataracts, wrinkles, and melanoma come to mind. In fact, Google “Is tanning safe?” and you’ll get a horrific list of reasons why you should probably just wrap yourself up like a mummy and stay indoors. Really, the guilt is crushing. It’s like if I don’t slather on sunscreen for a trip to the grocery store that I am doing irreparable damage to my future self. But then I get to thinking about it, and I start to wonder: Could all this sun phobia be a bit overzealous?
Recently, some medical experts have started to admit that they’ve gone a bit overboard with the whole sun is Satan thing, because a giant percent of the world’s population is starting to show signs of too little light (depression, Vitamin D deficiency, etc.). So I’d like to offer a few words of comfort to those who do tan, some that may ease your guilt just a little bit for those days that you’ve just got to hang out in sun—real or artificial.
A Few Reasons Why the Sun Loves You
Viva la Vitamin D! Vitamin D (which is actually a hormone) is completely essential to a healthy body and a lack of vitamin D has been found to cause giant health problems. And guess how you get Vitamin D? (Hint: Sunny D) UV Rays provide you with a lovely supply of Vitamin D. Drink it in.
Relaxation. People, we need more of this. And is there anything more relaxing than lying in the sun? No, there isn’t. But I find a nice tanning bed session to be a close second. And I’ll bet more people die of stress than sun. (I know. Not my strongest argument, but I think I have a point here…)
Look like a movie star. Tans make your teeth look whiter, your body thinner, and your legs longer. (Okay, I made that last one up, but I have what David calls “chicken walkers” so a girl can dream.)
Cheerful Moods. Sunshine brightens your mood by boosting feel-good chemicals in your brain that help you combat depression.
Please note that I am writing this with a very itchy red sunburn on my stomach from my tanning session today, but I have to say, it made me feel a lot better about living in Salt Lake City in February, and talk to me in 20 years, but that may just be worth an extra wrinkle.
Just remember to say your tanning bed prayers.