Melanoma Awareness Week 2 – Sunless Tanning

May is Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month. Each Monday of this month will feature a post pertaining to sun safety and skin cancer awareness and prevention.

Week 1

I used to tan. I loved to tan! Like many people, I think I look a little better with a little color. I don’t seek to resemble a cognac leather handbag, obviously, but whereas I’m naturally roughly NC15 in MAC, I prefer to be around NC25, at least in the fair-weather months (I don’t bother in late Autumn and Winter).

Unfortunately, though, while tanning in the sun’s glorious rays or worse, in a tanning bed, might produce nice short-term results, the long-term consequences do not make it worth it. The attitude of, “We’ll deal with that when we reach it,” is not a healthy one. I’ve heard some people say, “Well I want to stop, but…” and then append some myth they heard or some excuse they have about why they’re just going to keep baking in the rays.

Let’s dispel three of those.

MYTH 1: Sunless Tanning is Expensive

Sunless Tanning Myths

No! Most sunless tanning lotions or mousses are actually CHEAPER than two months of a tanning salon membership (in most places – and that’s not counting the cost of the special lotions you need for that, too) – and they last you longer. Currently, I use Million Dollar Tan (still on my original bottles – and no, I was not sponsored by them, I paid out-of-pocket), but I hear that Loving Tan is all the rage right now. These are prestige-level brands, but if you’re on a budget Jergens’ Natural Glow Daily Moisturizers is the best drugstore one I’ve tried – I wouldn’t rely on it for long-term color, but it is a good starting point. The line has expanded considerably since I’ve tried it, though, so maybe their Instant Sun mousse and 3 Days to Glow products are a bit better than the Daily Moisturizers. I bet there are other good drugstore options, too – if you know of one, leave it in the comments and let’s help others.

On top of all that, self-tanners are far cheaper in monetary value than melanoma or other skin cancer treatment, period – not to mention the overall impact on your health and well-being that cannot be measured so simply in dollars and cents.

MYTH 2. Sunless Tanning is Inconvenient

No, not really. If I so desired, I could apply it at 3AM. I don’t know about where you live, but unless you live in the Arctic Circle, you probably aren’t tanning at 3AM. and you probably cannot tan in a bed, get a Mystic application, or a decent spray tan at all hours. (I don’t apply at 3AM, but the point is that I COULD.) Semi-instant (depending on the product you’re using, anyway!) gratification. You also don’t need to worry about:

  • The weather, if you’re an outdoor tanning sort of person
  • Waiting for a bed/booth to become available when the salon is open
  • The sanitary conditions of the facility you’re visiting
  • The hassle of choosing a fancy lotion to buy in addition to your membership fees
  • Partially (or fully) exposing yourself to a stranger for a salon spray tan
  • Wasting your time! It takes less than 10 minutes to apply self-tanner, and maybe 5 minutes to dry before you can dress. Tanning in the sun can take hours. Bed/booth sessions take 7-20 minutes not including prep and clean-up. The time it takes for a spray tan varies, too
  • Sunless-tanning products can travel with you if you’ll be away for more than a couple days. There aren’t many national tanning chains, so your membership (for beds or spray tans) may not. The sun is everywhere, sure, but then you have the aforementioned considerations.

Yes, you do need to prep your skin beforehand (exfoliation, shaving) – but if you were tanning before, you were probably prepping your skin prior anyway.

MYTH 3. Sunless Tanning Smells Bad

I explained why the sunless tanner smell happens in my Jergens post from last year. The concentration of DHA seems to be related to how, “strong,” the smell is (I can’t say that is definitely the case, though), but I’ve never encountered anyone and been hit with a metaphorical wall of sunless tanner smell. The industry has made considerable advancements in recent years – you aren’t going to smell foul or awkward from using these products. The lotion I’m currently using is unscented, and I have had no issues or feelings of self-consciousness about the oft-dreaded, “Self tanner smell,” and I would recommend seeking unscented tanning products, too.

If you’re that worried about it, apply before bed, let it dry, then shower in the morning after the product has had a chance to work.

Really, the conventional excuses to shy away from sunless tanning products aren’t solid. Ultimately, today’s message isn’t, “Sunless tanners for everyone!” so much as, “DON’T tan – if you want color, here’s a safer way, and it isn’t as, ‘bad,’ as you think.” If you’re happy with your unaltered color, that’s fantastic – rock it, don’t bother buying this stuff. For the rest of us that like a little bronze sometimes (or all the time, do what you want), these options are healthier.

Stop tanning in the sun, stop tanning in beds. If you work outdoors, take measures to cover yourself. Save your skin, save yourself.