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Sun Safety Week and Society's Obsession With Being Tan

By HERWriter
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It seems that most women and men feel the need to be tan in order to fit into society's definition of attractive. Of course, there are obvious detrimental effects of catching too many sun rays.

National Sun Safety Week, which takes place from June 1 to 7, according to http://www.sunsafetyalliance.org/, is a great way to get more information about the dangers of the sun.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has its own Web page dedicated to providing information on how to "protect your skin from the sun": http://www.healthfinder.gov/prevention/ViewTopic.aspx?topicID=44.

Here are tips on how to prevent skin cancer from the U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services:

- The best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin from the sun.
- Stay out of the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.
- Cover up with long sleeves and a hat.
- Check your skin regularly. This is called a skin self-exam.

Despite all the information and awareness, as a college student, I see so many men and women with fake tans, real tans and sunburns. I'm sure they know what they're doing - they just don't want to be labeled as "too white," which seems to be considered unattractive.

People need to be happy with their natural skin color and take care of their skin, not let it burn. Otherwise they might have a higher chance for skin cancer.

Add a Comment31 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Free Lisa,

Thank you for your comment on this issue. The link is a great information source also.

December 25, 2009 - 11:25am

I think 'tanning' is up to the individual. What drives me crazy, however, is the absolute incorrect information that all sun exposure is unhealthy, and the Dr. recommended instruction to never go out in the sun 'unprotected'. They don't mention that 10,000 to 20,000 IU's of Vit D is required to prevent a wide variety of deadly cancers, helps prevent obesity and all the associated illnesses (heart disease, diabetes) etc. The 'take a supplelment' advice is good, but it's tough to get that many IU's from supplements. And, remember, 'dairy' doesn't come with Vit. D naturally, and was orignally added because child labor in mines & factories caused all the kids to get rickets from lack of sun...and dairy products when tested 'off the shelf' often contains NO vitamin D at all! 20 minutes a day IS enough, if not using suncsreen and you live S of Boston and it's between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. But still, that's onlly in spring, summer and fall. Winter is the 'flu season' because of lack of vitamin D. So, for me, I use a tanning booth judiciously in winter, and sometimes in the rest of the year depending on my ability to find time for sun during the middle of the day. It's good to check for skin cancer. But, you can't see lung cancer. And, further (google Vit. D ,Vit D Cancer Prevention etc) lack of Vitamin D is the underlying cause of melanoma cancer, not too much sun. I've read that evolutinarily speaking, humans turned white as they moved north out of Africa, because the intensity of sunshine was so much less in northern climes, and white skin allows more sunlight to enter. White skin is a biological solution to a lack of vitamin D. We're 'supposed' to be lightly tan if we're white. If we're not white, and living in the north, even more time in the sun is necessary to get the necessary levels of Vit. D. (Vit. D is a hormone, and acts in a hormonal funtion way...ie, lack of Vit. D is the underlying cause of 'hormonal' cancers, like breast cancer. And, you've heard of the 'unexplained' rise of breast cancer in men? Lack of sunlight in our modern air conditioned indoor lifestyle! One more thing,...all the ads on tv now for Big Pharma's solution to the 'pain of fibromyalgia"? Stage one rickets make your bones hurt...that's the 'unexplained pain' syndrome. Cured with a tan! but, that wouldn't sell any drugs, so it's 'fibromyalgia' and here's your prescription to 'treat it' not cure it. A good source of healing news is www.naturalnews.com It's not funded by any pharmaceutical or neutracuetical companies.

December 25, 2009 - 8:04am
EmpowHER Guest

I am naturally pale and have horribly blotchy skin. I tan because it honestly makes me look better and not like a sickly albino. Yes there are risks with tanning. But the same could be said about driving. When you get in a car you have a decent chance of getting in an accident. But yet you continue to drive.
It's a personal decision and I'm sick of hearing the negatives.

December 23, 2009 - 11:43am
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

In the end, it comes down to a choice for us all. And having tanned skin, in a lot of people's opinions (including mine) is attractive and healthy "looking" but tanned skin means damaged skin, whether it burns or not.

Comparing tanning risks to the risks of driving is a flawed comparison. The vast majority of us have to drive. It's how we get to work, to school - it's how we earn money for food and shelter to live. Driving, in the western world, has become a necessity and there are acceptable risks because we need transportation to live.

We don't, however, need tanning to live. It's a luxury and it is generally done for aesthetic reasons.

Most of us don't want to hear only the negatives of tanning but the truth is that there aren't really any positives, unless they are of an aesthetic value. Being out in the sunshine is good for us, we need Vitamin D and the light releases chemicals in us to improve our mental health. Lying in a tanning bed has never been, and will never be healthy.

I'm rather ghostly white too but I use self-tanning creams year round. I also dislike being so pale so I found a safer option. But as you say, it's a personal decision. In all aspects of life, we need to weigh our options, and then make our choices and live with them. As a health care site, it's our mission to help educate women, learn from and share their experiences, and give everyone the option of living their best life.

Thanks for you post!

December 23, 2009 - 12:28pm
HERWriter Guide


My kids could eat 10 servings of fruit and veg everyday and they'd burn to a crisp out in the sun without protection. One of them will begin to burn if out for more than 10 minutes. Their diet is healthy and varied but all the antioxidants in the world won't prevent sunburn.

I agree that being in the sun is good for you - my kids get 20 minutes of unprotected sun every day but they are outdoors a lot longer than that. Anything more than 20 minutes (and more than 10 continuous for one of them) would damage them very badly.

August 19, 2009 - 1:34pm
EmpowHER Guest

number 1: sunburn is caused by your skin not having enough antioxidants in your body, so eat tons of berries and other antioxidant rich foods.

number 2: sunscreen has many chemicals in it that actually cause cancer, instead of preventing it. It also blocks ultraviolet radiation from reaching the skin, preventing the body from producing vitamin D.

number 3: being out in the sun is good for you, it provides your body with vitamin D, which prevents over 77 different types of cancer

doctors recommend sunscreen because, like with prescription drugs, they get a hefty pay to advertise for the sunscreen companies. Not too long ago doctors recommended cocaine and cigarettes as ways to improve your health. The doctors aren't the ones that do the actual research on products such as these, so they only go with what they are told by the drug companies. Don't believe everything you are told by the media, because they sugarcoat everything just to make a profit. do your own research people.

August 19, 2009 - 1:29pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I did research on this topic for a report and it's totally true.
Tanning safely prevents burning.
Tanning is not bad for you, burning is bad.

December 23, 2009 - 11:46am
EmpowHER Guest

think it's mad how people still want to tan when we all know the dangers. I see girls at my college campus all lying out in bikinis, looking like easy women aswell, as getting all burnt. I don't get it!
I am very pale, of Danish background and think that I am beautiful as I am. People who are naturally brown are beautiful too. What looks bad are these little pale girls, trying to look like bronzed goddesses and just ending up being prematurely aged and having possible melanomas in their 20's and 30's.

.... Lol, juest because they sun bath on campus there easy?

Jeez, you need to relax.

August 19, 2009 - 1:49am
EmpowHER Guest

You do realize that you need exposure to UV rays to get vitamin D? and not only that, it also helps clear up skin.
Yeah too much is bad, but you need some!

August 15, 2009 - 1:44pm
EmpowHER Guest

OMG... I can't believe that in this day and age people are still tanning. It's the same with smoking, and drinking. Jesus here in Ca. 15 minutes out in the sun without an umbrella and you can FEEL the burning. If you ask me I would like nothing more than to have blue eyes blond hair and Ivory white skin.

August 10, 2009 - 10:25am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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