Tanning bed regular Patricia Krentcil made national news recently for charges that she had taken her then 5-year-old daughter Anna into a tanning booth with her.
She says that her daughter got her sunburn from playing in the yard. Given the depth, shall we say, of Patricia Krentcil's tan, it is easy to see why law enforcers would assume a tanning parlor infraction.
Dermatologists and other doctors have stressed over and over again that it's not just the sun that can be dangerous and carcinogenic to skin — tanning booths, which emit UV radiation, are also well known to be carcinogens.
I have to admit, I was really surprised by all the people basking in the sun, and getting burned, on the recent cruise I was on. I had the impulse to run around slathering sunscreen on random guests; I actually did on a few women I got to know.
There's a perception that you'll look younger and thinner with a tan — and to a certain extent it's true, until you reach the tipping point. Then it goes in the other direction, and fast.
The Tanning of the Shrew
OK, I don't know if Krentcil's a shrew, i just could resist the Shakespeare pun. But, a leathery "tan" like Krentcil's though is tantamount to body dysmorphia, in my humble non-professional opinion. Frankly, if you really want to get that dark, you can do it with self-tanners — without any danger to skin, or accelerating lines and wrinkles!
Sure, you have to reapply it, but what the difference from repeated visits to a tanning salon, or laying out for that matter... except that there's no danger to your skin. St. Tropez self tanners, for instance, a celebrity favorite, have so many options, you can easily go that dark, if that's your preference. They even have skin enhancers for skin that is already dark — meaning African-American skin, not Patricia Krentcil's toast-like hue.
It's hard to believe, in this day and age, with all the available information that's disseminated, that by now people aren't hyper aware of the dangers of tanning in general. SGS ally Barbara Grufferman, author of The Best of Everything Over 50, tells her cautionary tale of overtanning as a teen.
NYC cosemtic dermatologist Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank says the best advice he gives his clients to prevent sun damage is to prevent the problem before it exists. But is it too late for someone like Patricia, I asked him.
No. You can reverse it. You can use resurfacing lasers and chemicals peels to reverse sun damage."
What are the dangers of over tanning?
The biggest danger of over tanning is skin cancer. Unfortunately, you do not see the consequences of tanning for at least 10 years. Other dangers are permanent damage to your skin such as wrinkles and aging."
What are the dangers of overexposure to the sun vs. a tanning bed?
The majority of UV rays outside are ultraviolet B which are more intense and carcinogenic. The tanning beds tend to be ultraviolet A, which are still carcinogenic but a weaker form of radiation, but it penetrates deeper in the skin and has more aging effects. People think it is a safer form of tanning and so don't wear sunscreen, which makes it more dangerous."
Can there be such a thing as an addiction to tanning? Have you ever seen such a thing in your practice?
Absolutely. You can be addicted to anything. The typical thing that happens to people with sun damage is that no matter how much they tan, they will see their skin as pale. They have to keep doing it. If someone is ridden with sun damage, they are getting all blotchy and wrinkled and they see this as pale. I see people addicted to tanning all year round and tanning beds are to blame."
For the more rational, Dr. Frank recommends increasing sunscreen use in the summer. He explains that the best time to apply sunscreen is after showering or before leaving your home, so it is able to fully absorb into your skin and provide protection from ultraviolet radiation.
So, if you must tan, do it safely, but do try a faux tan on for size — your skin will thank you for it! By the way, how old do you think Patricia Krentcil looks? She's 44.