Indoor Tanning: How to Convince Your Daughter To Just Say No
If your daughter is among the 1 in 5 teen girls who engages in indoor tanning, here's how to convince her to stop (and get a spray tan instead)
The message is out there, loud and clear: Indoor tanning is no safer than outdoor tanning and boosts the risk of skin cancer. Not everyone has heard it, however. If you're the parent of a teen girl, she may be especially likely to roll her eyes and turn a deaf ear. But if you arm yourself with some hard facts and helpful alternatives, you just might make her hear.
It’s more common than you might think
According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey, one in five teen girls engaged in indoor tanning at least once during 2013. About 1 in 10 did so monthly, the researchers reported in JAMA Dermatology. (Boys were much less likely to have the habit, with 5 percent engaging in indoor tanning at least once in 2013 and just 2 percent reporting a monthly habit.) The survey got responses from more than 9,000 students nationally.
The numbers are going down, say the researchers, who tracked indoor tanning trends from 2009 to 2013 for the report. For instance, 25 percent of teen girls reported indoor tanning in 2009, compared to 2013's 20 percent. But the numbers are still higher than what experts would like to see.
If your daughter is in college, access to a tanning bed may be all too easy to come by. Researchers found that nearly half of the 125 colleges surveyed had an indoor tanning facility on campus or nearby. Nearly 15 percent of the colleges allowed campus cash cards to be used to pay for the services. Most off-campus housing facilities with the tanning services reported they provided it free to their tenants.
High school girls aren’t immune from the lure of tanning beds, either. According to the CDC, 21 percent of high school girls have used indoor tanning.
Overcoming the obstacles and myths
Now that you know what you're up against, you may need some evidence to convince your daughter to skip indoor tanning. Here, some talking points to get the conversation started.
Indoor tanning causes skin cancer, including deadly melanoma and the more curable squamous cell and basal cell cancers. In 2009, the World Health Organization classified indoor tanning devices as carcinogenic to human health. More than 400,000 cases of skin cancer may be related to indoor tanning in the United States each year, research suggests.
You may pay the price sooner rather than later. Skin cancer isn't just an old folks' problem. "I am seeing younger and younger people getting skin cancer," says Marie Jhin, MD, a San Francisco dermatologist with teens of her own. She has treated melanoma in people under 30, she says. Of course, the more you tan, the greater the risks. People who start as teens or young adults have a higher incidence of melanoma, the CDC says, due do the cumulative exposure.
It’s a great way to ruin your skin. Do you want wrinkles and age spots? Using a tanning booth is a good way to get them sooner. This fact may not hold much water for a 16-year-old, Jhin admits, but at least mention it, she suggests. Indoor tanning also changes your skin texture, the CDC says, and not for the better. (Think leather.)
A “base tan” isn’t helpful. If your daughter uses a tanning booth to get a “base tan” before a vacation or a summer at the beach, explain that the idea of a base tan is a myth. It does little to protect you from future sun damage, according to the CDC, which also says people who indoor tan are actually more likely to report getting sunburned.
Dark skin still gets cancer. Darker skin has more pigment, or melanin, but it doesn't protect you totally from skin cancer. If your daughter is olive-skinned and uses indoor tanning to get even darker, she still can get skin cancer, Jhin says.
Indoor tanning may be illegal. In 11 states, indoor tanning is outlawed for people under age 18, according to the CDC (although Oregon and Washington allow minors to tan if a doctor writes a prescription).
It's getting expensive. While some college tenants may get it free, indoor tanning salons now have a 10 percent excise tax levied on them.
Sunless tanning options
If your daughter still yearns for that sun-bronzed look, suggest sunless tanning products, Jhin says. "Nowadays you can get the artificial spray tans," she says. "They have come such a long way." She OK's either the over-the-counter products or the salon spray-on tans.
Sunless tanning products are catching on, according to a report in Archives of Dermatology in 2012. Researchers polled nearly 400 women attending two Midwestern universities and found 87 percent of the study participants used sunless tanning products in the past year (although some also used indoor tanning facilities).