Thursday, July 24, 2014

Greetings from the Other Side of 45

I have 2 points I want to make this week because I couldn’t decide which one to focus on so let’s talk about age and genetics.  Don’t fight it, it can’t be controlled.


Yes, I turned 46 this week. I am another year older, wiser, and healthier. I started thinking about how I am often told that I do not look old enough to have kids in their mid-twenties. When I tell people my age they are very surprised and many say things like, “I would have thought you were much younger/ You look so young/ I thought you were early thirties.”

 I don’t mean to brag, but I do look younger than I am.  I had many comments on pictures I post on facebook that my skin looks so nice, and I do not look my age. Some have asked me what my secrets are. It got me thinking about how often I see comments and beauty articles talking about how wrinkled and old tanning makes you. They use it as a warning, “Protect yourself from the damaging sun” and “If you tan, your skin becomes leathery and it ages you” I don’t believe that is completely true. I do believe excessive UV exposure will do that. But how many people really go that far? Sure, there are people who take things to the extreme, but, as with everything, they should not be viewed as the typical tanner. They do not represent the majority of us.  I have been tanning for over 2 years, I know people my age who have tanned for many years, I know people my age who have never tanned. The tanners do not look disproportionately older and the non-tanners don’t look smooth and younger. Generally speaking, we all look a little older than we did a few years back, but nothing unusual about the aging between the 3 categories.


I was approached by someone recently who has a fairer skin tone than me. This person wanted to know about my tanning experience because she was thinking about giving it a try. She is tired of being so pale and she burns when she is in the sun. This person is a skin type 1 and shouldn’t tan and I told her so. She was very disappointed with my answer and once I asked why she was thinking about tanning, she said she wants to have darker skin. I recommended she look into spray tanning since her goal is color, and she would only burn in a sunbed. As a skin type 1, she doesn’t have other options; her genetic make-up just won’t allow it.

I understand her frustration, even though I do tan, I am still very fair, my tan is barely noticeable.

I am posting a picture I took just a week or two ago. (I am on the edge of 46 here, do I look it?) Not a great pic of me, but I chose this one because you can see my “tan line” You can see that I am not freakishly dark, I have a bit more color on my neck, face and arms, the square neckline of where my tank top normally covers shows that my non tanned skin is just that, not tan. That is my fair skin color. You can see there is not a drastic difference between the two. I am posting it to show that my tan skin is not ever going to be as dark as someone who is a skin type 3 or 4, but I do get color, unlike a skin type 1. We have to take what we are given from nature when it comes to our skin type. This is the sort of thing that the staff at a professional salon is trained to know and they can help each skin type without burning them.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What A Healthy Vitamin D Range Means To Me

I have been telling my story for 2 years or so. I have been writing mostly about the misconceptions the general public seem to have about tanning, and tanners. I have been motivated to tell the other side of the story and I feel like my focus has been on de-bunking the common arguments against tanning. I think it is time to go a bit more into detail about how my life and my health has improved since raising my Vitamin D levels. 

First and foremost, I am not in constant pain anymore.  I dislocated my knee in 2005 and it never felt right after that. I chalked it up to being older and unable to fully recover. It was painful to do much of anything, all of my muscles ached regularly, and the knee practically throbbed when I would do too much.  Once my Vitamin D levels started improving, I started feeling better. After a few months of tanning, I didn’t even notice my knee. The pain was gone. It inspired me to try going to the gym and get into a workout routine. I started losing weight and felt better than I had in years. It was life changing. Now I walk 5-10k any chance I get, and I enjoy being more active.

Second, I feel like I have more energy. Now that could be from working out, but without Vitamin D helping alleviate muscle pain, I wouldn’t be able to work out. So technically, that is an indirect benefit, but I’m counting it. Before tanning and increasing my Vitamin D level, I was often too tired to do anything. I was the queen of procrastination because I was too lazy to get anything done.

I have always suffered migraines and I have noticed they are less frequent in the last 2 years. My migraines never had much of a pattern to go by, I would go months without one, then get slammed with 3 or 4 in a short period of time. I do still get one occasionally, but they don’t ambush me anymore.

I had some asthma issues about 5 years back. Never really had any experience with it as a child, but suddenly had trouble breathing, mostly in the winter months. I have no idea what triggered it in my adult life. I was given an inhaler and while it was managed easily, it was inconvenient.  I have not had to use my inhaler at all since improving my Vitamin D level. Well, maybe one time when we were moving and there was a lot of dust in the air. I think we can give that time a pass. When I was first diagnosed, I was using it several times a week.

I do not get colds or the flu as often.  I rarely got the flu anyway, but anytime I feel a cold coming on, I increase my Vitamin D by taking supplements.  While other people around me get the cold full blast, I get a case of the sniffles most of the time. When my kids start having signs of a cold, I give them supplements and they either get a mild cold or none at all. It seems when the cold does take hold, it isn’t as intense and it doesn’t last as long. This is the only time I get Vitamin D through supplement form, and I feel it is very helpful.

These are the main health improvements I found for me personally. What I have found interesting is the many, many, benefits associated with a healthy Vitamin D level that are being studied and reported daily.  If you have a chance, check out the list on the Vitamin D Council’s website about how Vitamin D plays a role in several medical conditions here:

Sunday, July 6, 2014

What I have learned

After reading so many articles and hearing so many reports about how dangerous tanning is, I have decided to revisit what happens when a person goes to a tanning salon. There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about what goes on. So let’s review what the process is, and go over a few other things I have learned since tanning, researching, and starting this blog.

First, a new client will fill out a survey to help the staff at the salon determine what that person’s skin type is. The fairest skin type, skin type 1, would be directed to spray tanning as an option, but no sunbed. Skin type 1 does not tan and they would get no benefit from a sunbed. This is standard practice in North America, and it is good business. Nothing would be accomplished if they let a skin type 1 person tan because burning clients is a guaranteed path to driving away business. 

Skin type 2 is tricky. That is my skin type. The survey I took put me at the lowest part of the skin type 2 range so I had to move forward slowly and conservatively. The higher range of skin type 2 is not quite as delicate, but still needs a close eye on how the skin reacts to UV exposure. For me, I worked with the staff to set a schedule of only 3 minutes in the sunbed, waiting 48 hours between visits. I was in a level one sunbed (UVA and UVB rays) that had a maximum time of 20 minutes for any skin type.  Someone who has not tanned regularly, with sensitivity to sun exposure like me, would need to start out very gradual.  Professional salons train their staff to know how to handle the fairest skin type 2. They know how to handle all skin types, but a fair skin type 2 would be the one most likely to burn if they did something wrong. The staff at my salon was very knowledgeable about how to slowly build the exposure time without burning me. They prepared me for the results to be unnoticeable for a few weeks. They were right.  It seemed to take a very long time for me to see any tan lines. I still do not see a major difference between my tan skin and my untanned skin.  Skin type 3 and 4 do not burn as easily and have a little more wiggle room on tanning schedules, but never allowed more than the maximum time limit for the equipment being used.

Sunbeds have a maximum exposure time. There are beds with maximum exposure time of 10, 15 and 20 minutes so there is an equation that factors in the max exposure time and person’s skin type that a trained professional would use to set the customer’s tanning schedule.  Starting out in a 20 min max sunbed was different than it would have been in a 15 min max or a 10 min max for me. That max time is just that, the most a person could use the equipment per session no matter who it is, even the skin types that aren’t sensitive and don’t burn easily. I also know now that tanning beds are only 2-3 times stronger than the sun, yet it is often reported that they are 10-15 times stronger.  That is just one of the many things misrepresented about tanning, and one of the inspirations for me to start blogging about my experience.

I have learned that professional salons have their client’s safety as their top priority. They are careful to follow their safety protocol to ensure no one gets burned. They stay well below exposure times to keep the risks of burning low. They stick to the maximum exposure times per bed.  Again, it would be a very bad business plan for a salon to not follow these rules because they would burn clients and lose business.

I have learned that my ever so slight base tan protects me from sunburn. I know this because I have successfully spent hours outdoors with no SPF or 20-25 SPF with no sign of sunburn. That is certainly something I could never have done before tanning in the salon. Untanned skin burns more easily than tanned skin, plain and simple. With so many messages out there to avoid any and all UV, to wear sunscreen constantly, it seems to be working against nature. We are avoiding the sun, so we have become more sensitive to the sun. I lived like this for years and I burned anytime I was in the sun for more than 10 minutes before I built a base tan.  Something that I hear often is the claim that “I burn the first time I’m in the sun, and then it turns into a tan.” This is a common misconception, one I believed for years too, but the reality is that the skin burns, then peels to the underlying skin layer that was not overexposed. What we need to promote and encourage, is not to burn, ever. We need to take it slow and build the base tan gradually. The burn turning into a tan is a myth, the base tan protecting us is not a myth.

I now know how prevalent Vitamin D deficiency is and that it is a very serious problem.  I have learned what Vitamin D does in our bodies to help fight disease and illness. I understand that it is vital for a healthy lifestyle and that most of Americans are deficient. Being deficient puts us at risk of over 100 diseases including cancer. Vitamin D deficiency is 50 percent higher now than it was just 15 years ago and I believe it comes from that constant message to avoid the sun.

I have learned that groups who oppose tanning, like to throw out numbers to scare the public into believing skin cancer is a major risk threatening our lives. Like it is somehow more of a threat facing the general population than it has been in years past. But it is really only a threat to 2 percent of the population. I do not mean to sound callus, skin cancer is a serious issue and I believe it is something to be concerned, and vigilant about. However, it is not as rampant as they make it sound, and the relationship of UV exposure and skin cancer is not as clear cut as they say. They misrepresent studies to support their views when those studies show that professional salons do not contribute to the statistics they cite. They overstate the risks and misinform the public.  The truth is that skin cancer is a minimal risk when compared to the health risks of Vitamin D deficiency. Funny how doctors will prescribe medications that have severe side effects to treat an illness because the benefits would outweigh the risk, yet when it comes to UV exposure it seems the smaller risk of skin cancer wins over the many benefits of a healthy Vitamin D level.  It is backwards thinking.

I have learned that chemical sunscreen is dangerous when used constantly. The chemicals are absorbed into our skin and it blocks absorption of UV needed for Vitamin D. It is a double whammy. We should only need to use sunscreen when there is a chance we will be in the sun long enough to burn.  It should not be used daily. 

I have learned that there have been enough stories about tanning being bad for you and virtually no stories being told about how it can be beneficial. There are success stories out there, like my experience. That is why I decided to tell the other side of the story. Since sharing my story I have been contacted by many people with similar situations, stories, and experiences. I have heard many people say their doctor suggested tanning, and after hearing my story they have done their own research and made more informed decisions on what would work best for them. I don't believe there is a one size fits all solution and being informed is the best approach no matter what the issue.

The bottom line is, it is all about moderation, and some people just don’t understand that.  There is a misconception that all tanners are dark, leathery, and old looking. But we are just normal people in all shapes, sizes, and colors. We just have better Vitamin D levels than the general population. 

On a personal note, while writing this post I realized how much I have learned and I think I may have needed to break this one down because it has gone in so many directions. But I already put the time into it so I am posting it as is. I guess I have learned that I am still very passionate about this subject and that neglecting my blog means I ramble when I get back to writing. So I am re-committing to posting here regularly and hopefully I can scale things back and take on bits and pieces rather than trying to say everything all in one post. Thanks for reading!