Recently I attended a legislative hearing and spoke to one of my state’s house committees considering a bill involving teen tanning. I went into it to give my thoughts on how the proposed bill is essentially unnecessary because what it was seeking to do is actually common practice in professional salons. The bill proposes to ban anyone under 14 from tanning and anyone from 14 to 18 needs parental consent. I know my salon requires parental consent already, other salons I have talked to require it, and the head of a chain of salons testifying at the hearing says they require consent as well. As it turns out, about 95 percent of salons in Colorado require parental consent for anyone under 18 even though it isn’t required by law. (By the way, that isn’t exclusive to Colorado, the tanning industry does this nationwide, even when it isn’t required by law, that’s just good business.) So why waste everyone’s time and money to make a law on something that is already voluntarily in place by the industry? I made my statement about how this kind of thing should be a parent’s decision, not the government and that the practice that is already in place is working. The message I heard from the testimonies that day were not entirely balanced and it bothered me that lawmakers didn’t see that. I have a lot to say about this experience, here is the first part:
How can a person listen to someone say that avoiding any and all UV exposure is the best thing to do and not question it? That doesn’t make sense at all. We wouldn’t be alive today without UV. The sun is essential to life and well, we need it to live. Dermatologists at the hearing were telling the committee that sunbeds are causing an increase in skin cancer. They say they are diagnosing someone with melanoma at least once a week because of people using sunbeds. But I’m not buying it, they are putting the blame on sunbeds from a professional salon without actually having the proof. They made it seem like there are no other ways to be exposed to UV. They of course spouted the 75% increase in risk for those that start using sunbeds before 35, with no mention of the fact that professional salons do not contribute to that statistic. Overexposure of UV can cause skin cancer, but there are other factors that would contribute too. The abundance of moles, freckles, genetics, and a fair skin type play a major role. These things are assessed in a professional salon before allowing a client to use a sunbed. I would put money on the fact that many of the cases they see are people who have never set foot in a professional tanning salon. What they are not telling or admitting is that the prominence of their diagnoses could be attributed to actually being able to detect skin cancer earlier, or that many of these diagnoses are not necessarily accurate. They just kept stating that sunbeds are the cause and all UV should be avoided all the time. It isn’t balanced.
On the other side, I hear from the salon I use and from the testimony by the C.O.O. of a chain of salons in Colorado that overexposure is the enemy. Moderate and responsible UV exposure is the goal. They work with clients to ensure there is no sunburn by assessing skin type, ability to tan, equipment being used. They make sure a person is limited on how often they tan. They teach that UV responsibility extends beyond their doors, that clients should pay attention to their skin when outdoors. Sunscreen is encouraged any time there is a possibility of sunburn. That seems sensible to me. It is balanced. I see that put into place when I visit my salon. Recently they replaced the level 1 beds I use. They have worked with me to get the time right to avoid burning me because the new beds are 15 minute maximum instead of the 20 minute max I was used to. Because of this I have adjusted my time down in the new sunbed to 5 minutes from the 15 minutes I normally did. They have face lamps, so for my fair skin, I need to make sure those are turned off. This is something the staff helps me with and they have recommended some moisturizing lotions. This is just good business and again, it is balanced.
So look at the two messages and tell me which one is reasonable and balanced. One is telling you that all UV should be avoided and that sunscreen should be worn at all times. That message is causing the Vitamin D deficiency in this world. The other is telling you moderation and responsible exposure is the way to go. It encourages sunscreen when needed but teaches it isn’t needed all the time. I have listened to both messages and I had severe Vitamin D deficiency because of one of those messages.