Tanning question
February 14, 2005 9:33 AM   Subscribe

I just got a tanning booth subscription at my gym. I've never really been able to tan in the sun but I don't spend much time outside as it is. I have gone twice, 5 minutes at a time. (mi)

Here's the deal: My chest doesn't see the light of day. It is now quite pink and tender, but less tender than it was last night. The rest of my body, even though it does not get out in the sun, has remained relatively unscathed. I am not expecting miracles or orange skin, I just want to get to the point of a light tan.

A. Is this possible with my skin type? (Tend to freckle, has been seriously sunburnt in past)

B. How often should I go to properly and safely "work myself up"?

C. I don't mind having minor irritation, i'm more worried about hurting myself. Any pain involved: Too much?

P.S. Those two days were back to back over this weekend.
posted by Dean Keaton to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Here's what the National Cancer Institute (part of NIH) has to say about tanning booths:

"Women who use tanning beds more than once a month are 55 percent more likely to develop malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer... The risk is greatest for people with fair skin; blonde, red, or light hair; and blue, green, or gray eyes. Artificial tanning can also be more dangerous for those who burn easily, have already been treated for skin cancer, or have a family member who has had skin cancer."

Does any of that sound like you? If so you should probably stop using tanning booths. Especially more than once a month.
posted by grouse at 9:49 AM on February 14, 2005

I have a follow-up question: are you doing this to build up a base tan for a trip to a tropical locale, or are you just doing it for appearences? Reason I ask is if it's for anything but the former, I would not do it. Too many risks involved, and if you have fair skin as you describe, it probably won't give you the look you want. I would stick with cosmetics for that. Less risk of carcinoma that way.
posted by psmealey at 9:54 AM on February 14, 2005

Stop using UV tanning booths and start going to the spray on tan places (Mystic Tan is one that I know).
But, since your question was not "What sort of permanent damage am I doing to my skin and health"...
I would suggest spreading it out much more, and even though it sounds counter to your goal, wear sunscreen. It'll slow the exposure you're getting to the UV rays, and you could gradually lower the SPF as your skin develops a tan base.
Seriously consider stopping this though. Pale with freckles is in!
posted by nprigoda at 9:57 AM on February 14, 2005

Being pale myself, the best success I had with tanning (and I was goddess dark for a while) was using a good tanning lotion, and NOT GOING BACK TO BACK. Your gym probably offers some tanning lotions, and someone there should know about them and which one is good for your level of tan/not tan. Going up in increments and making sure that you don't burn is the only way to do it. Anyone who says you should ever be in there for 30 minutes is lying and you shouldn't go back there.

Finally, whether or not to continue tanning is your decision alone. I tanned for a while, and I really loved it. I hated being pale, and I also had some slight seasonal affective problems which the tanning bed cleared up. If you choose to continue, and if you don't remember anything else, remember not to let yourself be burned.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:09 AM on February 14, 2005

I also had some slight seasonal affective problems which the tanning bed cleared up

Skin problems, or other sorts? I'm curious, if you're willing to share.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:15 AM on February 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

As someone who for about a year tanned regularly and had no tan before:

Once you build up a base tan you'll be able to take anything, really. Here's what I did:

Went everyday for about 12 minutes in a standard lay-down bed. About the third time I was a really, really, burnt lobster for about two weeks. After that I could easily go in the tanning bed everyday for about 18-20 minutes.

I'd recommend starting out at 8-10 minutes a day every three days until you no longer burn. Then after your burn stage is done I'd go every other day for the max time you can until you get to where you want to be, then ease off to three or so times a week (I usually did Thursday, Friday, Tuesday to go for the weekend partying and Tuesday to keep it up).

Now as I enter the twilight of my party days, I no longer tan. It just gets boring and expensive to lay in a bed for a half hour a day.

Oh and don't skimp on the lotion. It's fairly cheap for the healing powers it gives off. It moisterizes your skin and supposedly allows you to tan faster. These claims I cannot verify, only that I never got the dry, peeling skin I get when I tan outdoors -- even when the tanning bed burnt me.

I should make the disclaimer that I too, do no tan easily in the sun. I also do not burn very easily either. I was able to tan in the bed very quickly.

Now I'm somewhat nostalgic for my sexy Miami Vice all-season tan.
posted by geoff. at 10:46 AM on February 14, 2005

Best answer: I get UVA treatment for a skin condition and the rule of thumb from my dermatologist is:
-Never back to back days. Burns can take up to 24 hours to fully appear.
-If you are pink with no pain, go ahead.
-If you are red or have pain, skip it.
-Cover your unmentionables.
-Use a SPF45 sunscreen on your face, and use a self bronzer if you want a tan there.
-Work up slowly.
-MOST IMPORTANT: Have someone check you for moles and freckles every 3-6 months. Use the ABCs.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 10:54 AM on February 14, 2005

Literally, seasonal affective as in, werid seasonal moodiness/depressiveness. I went to the tanning bed desperate to feel sun and to get warm, and I came out toasty and happy (well, not instantly, but I did feel somewhat better PDQ). I was way better off emotionally, just because the toasty-warmness made me phyiscally and mentally feel better.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:41 PM on February 14, 2005

I'm fair and freckle easily but I'm going to Puerto Rico tomorrow so I've been booth-tanning for the last couple of weeks just so I don't fry my first day out. I've been going once every two or three days building up from 7 to 10 minutes. You shouldn't expect to be anything but white or lightly pink after the first few sessions; the tan will emerge gradually over the next five or so sessions.

Don't wear sunscreen, that would be silly. If you find you're getting painfully pink, cut back the time you're under the lamps. Rub yourself down with aloe vera gel after - that bright-green Banana Boat stuff is good if you can find it - if you are worried about moisturizing.

And I'll second Maven regarding the salutary psychotropic effects of getting some pseudo-sunlight every few days in the winter.
posted by nicwolff at 12:45 PM on February 14, 2005

Hmm. Do 'spray on' tanners actualy produce the same results as optical ones? I mean, can you build up a 'base tan' with them? Or are they pretty much just dyes.

A friend of mine whent tanning in the middle of winter, and I thought she looked rediculous, like a raccon, since her eyeball areas were covered.
posted by delmoi at 12:49 PM on February 14, 2005

Most winters, I took out a 10-session subscription to the tanning booth in my gym. It helps with Seasonal Affective Disorder - in a short time, I get a lot of light, some toasty warmth, and a sense of well being that keeps me happy all day.

I too have fair skin, and burn easily. I always spaced my tanning sessions three days apart - eg, tan one morning (10 minutes) then two days off, repeat.

This winter, I work mostly from home, and I have floor to ceiling windows in my study. I don't need to use the tanning booth this winter - I feel plenty fine. But when I worked in windowless breathless offices, I would *crave* that biweekly winter tanning booth hit.

NOTE TO NICWOLFF: sunbooth tanning will NOT protect you from burning in the rays of the sun! Once you arrive in Puerto Rico, build up slowly on the beach, just as if you arrived all-pale. Remember that the tanning booths only offer one, at most two, types of UV rays, whereas the sun has a full spectrum.
posted by seawallrunner at 12:58 PM on February 14, 2005

Response by poster: I don't cover my unmentionables. The heat turns me on (grins). Anyways, I will cut back to once every other day. Thanks for the help.
posted by Dean Keaton at 8:09 PM on February 14, 2005

Don't wear sunscreen, that would be silly.

That goes against everything I have ever heard concerning this topic.
posted by fourstar at 10:04 PM on February 14, 2005

« Older How Do I Hire Photographers?   |   Tips about travel to Japan? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.