Why Snooki, Crazy Tanning Mom and George Hamilton Should Stop Tanning

Cancer is one reason, but don't they know they look like Oompa Loompas?

A strange thing happened during my senior year of high school. All at once and seemingly without warning, all of my friends started going tanning. This was, of course, in preparation for the impending prom. Somehow, it was okay to look pasty and pale at the junior prom, but the pigment stakes were raised for senior prom. I’m not clear about whether or not this coincided with the nation’s obsession with tanning (though, if I had a guess, I’d say that the nation probably was psyched about it two years earlier since it takes awhile for cosmetic trends to reach the depths of Northeast Philly Catholic high schools), but it was the first time I found myself thinking, “Aren’t these stupid girls afraid of getting cancer?” 

By now, tanning is an official hobby for some folks, including actor George Hamilton, Jersey Shore‘s Snooki and our new favorite maternal punching bag, Patricia Krentcil, who is accused of allowing her five-year-old daughter to fake bake. Last month, Time business reporter Chris Matthews called the self-tanning biz one of the top ten fastest-growing industries in the country.

And I am still baffled about why anyone with two brain cells to rub together would hop in a tanning bed.

Let’s talk about the real-life, scary-as-hell reasons why you shouldn’t tan:

1. Melanoma. The Mayo Clinic calls this “the most serious type of skin cancer.” It will account for more than 75,000 cases of skin cancer in 2012.
2. Tanning beds are like cigarettes for your skin. From Skincancer.org: “The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an affiliate of the World Health Organization, includes ultraviolet (UV) tanning devices in its Group 1, a list of the most dangerous cancer-causing substances.35 Group 1 also includes agents such as plutonium, cigarettes, and solar UV radiation.”
3. Poop remnants. In 2010, a researcher in New York City swabbed tanning beds in salons that regularly cleaned their equipment—which is mandated by NY law—and found all sorts of disgusting things, including feces. Think about your naked body laying on someone else’s fecal matter. Still want to get that pre-summer glow?

Now, if you’re a person who wants to evangelize me to the glories of fake tanning, please, before you leap to the comments section,click here to see an image of Patricia Krentcil, who is 44 with the face of a 90-year-old baseball glove. You really want to tell me that tanning makes you feel thinner and more attractive? I assure you: It does not. There are no real, non-cosmetic benefits to tanning. (To be perfectly clear: I think almost all women who tan wind up looking more like Oompa Loompas than supermodels, so I don’t really buy that there are cosmetic benefits either. But I digress.)

Do not—I repeat do not—try to talk to me about vitamin D from UV rays. You should get plenty of vitamin D from your normal outside routines like walking during daylight. And if you’re not getting enough that way, you can get supplements for pretty cheap—cheaper than tanning, I bet. For the sake of full disclosure, I will tell you this: I know all about vitamin D issues, because I work in a windowless office and during the winter, I often start and end the workday during non-daylight hours. This year, I developed a rather severe vitamin D deficiency for which I took a ginormous supplement and paid very little for it. If you can afford to tan, you can afford to pop a vitamin D pill.

Especially if you’ve just dropped all your money on a senior prom dress.