A Facebook friend was brave enough to post this comparison photo of herself recently with the caption: "A year ago today was the last day I stepped into a tanning bed. Looking back at pics I realize how tanorexic I was. After 16 years of tanning multiple days a week my skin looked unhealthy and unnatural. Even tho I miss being tan sometimes, I've come to embrace my natural self."
I reached out to Jennifer Jones to see if she would be willing to share her thoughts & experiences with the world, & I was so happy that she agreed! This is an issue that deserves thought & attention because it is a very real struggle & a very dangerous one.
Q: How often were you indoor tanning?
A: I started tanning in high school about 15-16 years old. I would go about 4 - 6 days a week once I was in college. I started working at a tanning salon part time in 2011 so I would say I started going more like 5-6 days a week since I was there, and it was free.
Q: How did you know that it was becoming an issue?
A: People have made comments, but I kind of just ignored them. I do remember one of my guy friends told my mom he thought I was too tan when I wasn't around. I think that's the first time I realized that maybe people were right. I also would lie to my mom about going tanning and how much I went. Sometimes, I would get upset if I couldn't go tanning. It was like I had to go before I was going out, and if I couldn't get there I'd get mad. I think part of it was a body issue thing. I would read in articles that being tanner made you look skinnier, more defined, etc. When I was younger I definitely had insecurities about my body, especially being a gymnast, and tanning just seemed to help me feel better about the way I looked.
Q: Did you feel like it was an addiction of sorts?
A: Yes. It was almost like part of a daily routine. Work, gym, tan. I would even hide it from my mother (who was against me tanning so much). When I went home for the holidays, I would lie about where I was going sometimes just to go tanning.
Q: How do you feel about the phrase "tanorexic"?
A: In high school, one of my teammates was the first one to call me tanorexic. At first, I was kind of proud about it in a way because the pale freckled girl was finally seen as tan. My coworkers and I at the salon would always joke about it, but now I realize that it was definitely an issue.
Q: What steps did you take to stop?
A: I didn't really try to stop. The salon I was working at closed down so I thought I'd give my skin a break for a little. Then a month later my good friend showed me this article about this young beautiful girl who ended up getting skin cancer all over her face. I didn't want to end up like that so I just stopped.
Q: Were you aware of the risks associated with indoor tanning?
A: Yes, but I felt like nothing would ever happen to me.
Q: Do you ever do indoor tanning now?
A: I haven't stepped in a tanning bed since May 26th, 2015.
Q: How do you feel now that you are not indoor tanning?
A: I feel great. Looking back at some pictures, I looked orange and not natural. My skin looked unhealthy. I do miss tanning, but it's not worth it in the long run. I have come to embrace my natural pale skin. It's part of who I am.
Q: What would you like to tell others who might be struggling with this too?
A: You're beautiful the way you are. Natural goes a long way.
- Indoor tanning often goes hand in hand with poor body image & depression.
- Indoor tanning is not safer than the sun.
- Indoor tanning is linked with a 20% increase in the risk of developing melanoma skin cancer.