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. 

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