Sunday, February 24, 2013

Happy Tanniversary

One year ago this week, I tanned in a salon for the first time. This year has been filled with many new experiences and I have learned so much. I thought it might be good to look back and share what the experience has been like, and what I’ve learned.

To recap:  In January of 2012 I had a physical and my Vitamin D level was tested, the results were that I had a blood level of 11 nanograms-per-milliliter (11ng/ml) My doctor wanted me to take 50 thousand IU of Vitamin D per week and prescribed a once a week pill of 50k IU. My thyroid has been abnormal for a few years now and I take medication for that every morning, but according to the label for the thyroid medication, I am not to eat for an  hour after taking it, and also no vitamins can be taken within 4 hours (before or after) of it. So I forgot more than I remembered to take the pill. Especially a pill I only had to take once a week. I tried to just get over the counter Vitamin D in lower levels that would add up to 50k per week, and take them on a daily basis. Still no luck at consistently remembering to take it so I started doing more research on Vitamin D. Vitamin D is actually a hormone produced naturally in the body when exposed to UVB rays from the sun.  It made sense that I was deficient because of my fair skin I burned any time I was in the sun for more than 10 minutes.  I have avoided the sun for years.  Looking into it further I kept seeing information that tanning beds could be an option for me.  So I decided to visit a salon to see how things worked.

I had never been in a tanning salon before. The only experience I had ever had with it was when my best friend in high school went to a salon once in a while. She didn’t burn and really didn’t go on a regular basis,   so I had no idea what it was like. I had the impression that you go in and lay in a bed for the amount of time you determine. I was mistaken. I was pleased that when I went in to Tan the Moon in my neighborhood, they had a knowledgeable staff. They gave me a questionnaire to fill out about my skin and how it reacts to the sun. We determined that I am a very fair skin type 2. Tanning was possible but it would be something to monitor closely. I started conservatively with just 2 minute sessions every other day.  I had no sign of burn after a week so we increased the time by a minute each week, carefully assessing my skin throughout the process to ensure there was no burn. In April I had my blood level checked and the results were astonishing. I was at 75ng/ml. I continued the tanning every 2 to 3 days for a while increasing the time by 1-2 minutes each week. I got up to 18 minute sessions in a level 1 bed. I was able to go outdoors over the summer for hours without burning because I had a base tan protecting me. With the increased time I was able to spend outdoors, I started to scale back my tanning sessions to once a week for 15 minutes. I will be going back to my doctor in the coming month and I am curious to see what my level is with this type of schedule. 

So just from that part of the experience I learned about how salons take into consideration a person’s skin type and that they limit how much time you spend in a tanning bed based on that. I learned that the fairest skin type, skin type 1 is not allowed to tan in a salon because that skin type will not tan. I learned that I am a very fair skin type 2 which is why I was able to use the equipment in a slow, careful, moderate way. I learned that there are time limits on each tanning bed no matter what skin type you are. I learned the time limit is based on calculations to give you 2/3 UV exposure that would induce a burn so there is a nice safe cushion of time to ensure burning doesn’t happen. I learned that a base tan does work at protecting skin from burning.  I found that salons have my safety as their highest priority.

I also learned that my Vitamin D level is connected to my muscle aches that I have suffered for years. Since dislocating my knee 7 years ago I have had constant pain and walking any distance was difficult. When I raised my Vitamin D level the pain subsided and I have been able to go to the gym and exercise without the pain that held me back for years. I’ve lost 35 pounds because I can exercise without pain. I have started walking 5k races and that takes me about an hour. The races are generally in the morning hours and there are always activities afterwards that I can mingle and participate in. I have done this without worry of sunburn since I have a base tan protecting my skin. Like I said, before tanning, I was not able to be in the sun for more than 10 minutes so being able to be out walking for over an hour is a life changing success. I was able to go to the pool with my kids without worry over the summer for the first time in my life. This is thanks to tanning and the base tan I have acquired.

I have learned there is a lot of bad press blaming tanning salons for increasing the risk of skin cancer when the actual risks are linked to other forms of tanning. The statistic cited over and over again is that “tanning before the age of 35 increases a person’s risk by 75%”, this is misleading. The World Health Organization's report comes from including other, more dangerous methods of tanning in order to get that statistic, yet it is never pointed out that salons were the method that showed no significant increase in risk. The report studied home units, dermatologist’s phototherapy treatments, and salons. Of those studied, home units increased the risk by around 35%, dermatologists increased the risk by 95% and THAT is what makes up that shocking 75% number. The media is not breaking that down and leads the public to believe that the full 75% comes from salons. That is wrong. There should be accountability for that.

I have learned that tanning helps with several skin conditions and members of my own family use tanning to treat various skin conditions. Psoriasis, Acne, Eczema are all treated successfully with tanning beds. Dermatologists offer treatments for these conditions using the same equipment for up to 10 times the cost to the consumer. I find it fascinating that dermatologists are the ones that are pushing to make laws limiting or outright banning salons when they themselves use the same equipment for phototherapy. They are increasing the risk of skin cancer by 95% because they do not have the safety practices in place like salons do. They don’t even take into consideration what a patient’s skin type is so they WILL treat a skin type 1 person with UV exposure. That is dangerous.  Hypocritical much dermatologists?

I keep hearing/seeing the argument that tanning beds have been classified as a level 1 carcinogen to try to alarm the public. They point out that there are terrible things that have been classified that way too like smoking and plutonium. What they don’t point out is that there are other everyday things that are classified as a level 1 carcinogen as well. To name a few, BBQ meats, wine, birth control pills, salted fish, and sawdust. They want to point out the carcinogen classification to scare people. It is another misleading and inaccurate method to try to sway you to believe tanning equals death. Tanning beds are classified that way because they emit the same UV rays as the sun; the sun is also classified as a level 1 carcinogen. Moderation is the right way to approach UV exposure and that should be the message. The UV avoidance message is what is contributing to the epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency.  The scare tactics need to stop.

Sunscreen should also be used in moderation. Cosmetic manufacturers would like you to believe that you need sunscreen every day all day.  Most Dermatologists are endorsing that message and that is irresponsible. This is a major factor in the Vitamin D deficiency crisis. If you slather on chemical sunscreen every day to block UV rays, you will not have a healthy Vitamin D level. That is increasing your risk of over 100 diseases and health risks including many forms of cancer.  So to me it seems Dermatologists feel it is a better trade off to risk other forms of cancer by blocking UV rays to combat the risk of skin cancer. That makes no sense. Why it is so hard to endorse a reasonable balanced message of UV moderation and that sunscreen should only be used when there is a risk of overexposure?

I have learned that tanners come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Many people seem to think a typical tanner looks like those in the media like Snooki or “the tanning mom” which doesn’t help the image of what it really is. Tanners are normal just like you or me, not the extreme of what the media hypes.

I think the year to come is going to be challenging, but I’m up for it. I hope to be able to give the other side of the story to those that have only heard the negative aspects of tanning.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Supplemental Inconsistency

A report came out this week stating that Vitamin D supplements have been found to be inconsistent with their dosage. 55 bottles, 12 different brands, both over the counter and prescription, were tested and found to have as little as 9% or as much as 146% of Vitamin D as the bottle’s label claimed.  Not only were there large variances in the supplements by brand, but also in the same bottle, pills varied in potency. With this information, it made me glad I decided to treat my Vitamin D deficiency through UV exposure instead of depending on a pill, like my doctor wanted me to do.

For someone that is Vitamin D deficient, they may have a false sense of security that they are taking care of the problem through supplements. They may think they are increasing their level and protecting themselves from so many health risks associated with low Vitamin D. When in reality they may not be getting enough Vitamin D to raise their level by even 1 point. This recent discovery is concerning to me.  We have such a high percentage of the population that is Vitamin D deficient and supplements are not going to help reduce that number, if they are not consistent or accurate.  Until the time when the variances in supplements are eliminated, UVB exposure through a tanning bed could be the most appropriate solution for many people. In the controlled environment of a salon, it seems it would be more reliable than a pill.

I know with each of my tanning sessions I am getting 10-20k IU of Vitamin D produced naturally through my skin’s receptors by being exposed to UVB rays. My body effectively and efficiently tolerates this method better than what can be found in a pill.  I also get the added mood boost which is a nice benefit a pill can’t provide.  It would be nice to get more information and publicity out there that UV exposure is really the best way to increase and/or maintain a healthy Vitamin D level. 

Know your level, keep checking it, and don’t count on a supplement to be your only source of Vitamin D if you can help it.

One of the recent articles about the subject:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Right to Tan

I’m not one to get political about things, but there are several states introducing bills to try to ban anyone under 18 from tanning. Two states (at least) have actually passed this sort of thing into law.  While I am all for keeping kids safe from potential dangers, I really don’t think these laws will have the affect the lawmakers are intending.  I honestly believe this could backfire, and the teenagers are the ones that are going to pay the price. Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Currently, the common practice for salons handling individuals under 18 is that they need a parent’s permission. The parent has to be present for the first visit, and the permission in most states will expire after a set amount of time. (like 6 months or a year) Once it has expired, the parent will have to grant permission again and attend that first visit again. This seems logical to me. As a parent, I want to have that level of involvement.

There are several reasons, other than getting a tan, which a young person would want to go to a tanning salon. Let’s face it, if getting color were the ONLY reason these kids want to tan, they could get it much quicker with a spray tanning product.  Of course, there is Vitamin D, but don’t kid yourself, I don’t think that the majority of teens are beating down the doors of salons because they are concerned about their Vitamin D level. (Not that they shouldn't be) But as a parent, that is the biggest reason I would want my kid to tan. Treating skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, or eczema are good reasons to visit a salon; UV exposure is successful in treating all of these conditions in many people. My son (he is an adult now) has started tanning to treat his acne and in the last 6 weeks there has been a significant improvement in his skin. Had I known years ago we could have success this way, I would have started him tanning in high school. Another reason a teen might want to tan, would be to get a base tan before a vacation. Spring break is coming up soon and many families (not just college students) go somewhere sunny at this time of year. Without a base tan to help protect against burns, it could be a long difficult week in the sun for kids who really don’t realize that you have to ease into sun exposure after long winter months. A base tan would minimize the risk of burn, and would help get them thinking about sun exposure so they don’t over-do it and get over-exposed.

So back to these proposed laws, while they may seem like a good idea they are really irresponsible. These laws would only ban teens from tanning in a salon, the safest and most controlled environment to tan. Without that as an option, teens may use a home unit, tanning beds that can be purchased online and used without any regulation or safety guidelines. If they can’t get one, they probably know someone who has one and they would use that.  A teen would be able to tan in a bed for as long as they want as often as they want, no one will be there to stop them. No one would be there to assess skin type, so a very fair skin type 1 teen would be able to lie in a bed as long as they want to try to tan and end up with a nasty, dangerous burn. If they don’t have access to a home unit, they could just lie in the sun for hours upon hours to try to get a tan without understanding the dangers and risks until it might be too late.  Salons make sure their equipment is used in the most responsible and safest way; they are educated and trained about how to operate it and know the limits of how long they are to be used by all skin types.

Banning teens from going to salons will only encourage them seek out other methods that could be more dangerous and raise the risk of skin cancer even higher. Again it comes down to moderation and responsibility, a salon is going to give you that. The standard practice of how things are done now is sufficient in my opinion. Requiring parental consent and having the parent actively involved should be all that is necessary. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

50 Shades of Tan

One of the things I would like to accomplish with my little blog is to change the attitude many people have about tanning and tanners. There is an overwhelming amount of comments I see with snide remarks about how people who tan are vain, that they should “love the skin they are in” and “embrace being pale” which clearly shows the misconception of a typical tanner.  There are many reasons to tan as I have pointed out, and there are many shades of tan.

I am fair and even at my tannest, I am what people would consider pale. My Vitamin D level is higher than the majority of the US population though. I see people come and go from the salon where I go, and they all have perfectly natural skin tones. They are not leathery or old looking. Those are typical tanners; some are tan, some not so much. Tanning for whatever reasons they have, some to get a base tan before a vacation (like the couple that were in the salon tonight) some to clear up a skin condition (like my son and brother) some to raise their Vitamin D level (like me) or just to chase away the winter blues (several people I know have told me this is the reason they tan). There are people that over-tan, of course, there are people that over-do things in all endeavors. People who abuse tanning are the minority, yet public opinion is that they are the norm.

When I see the comments like what I listed above like pale is beautiful/ love the skin/ if you are tan you are vain, I am so tempted to smack them with a reply, get your Vitamin D levels checked, you may be kidding yourself about pale being beautiful, pale can be more dangerous than you realize. I’ll admit, I don’t want to say these things in a courteous manner. But I just try to do what I do here; I try to tell my story so people will see there are good reasons to tan. I share what I have learned through this process. Will it sink in? Not with everyone, but maybe someone will get it. Someday they will get what a healthy Vitamin D level means or about the many diseases and health risks it prevents.  I guess that is where I come in with my desire to accomplish the change in attitude. Even if it reaches a few people, if they tell two friends and so on, and so on…. (if you grew up in the 70s and 80s you know what I am referring to there.)  ;P