Stop Shaming the Spray Tan

As a high school student, it is not abnormal to see pale beauties magically transform into bronzed goddesses overnight, seemingly glowing as if they managed to escape Colorado's insanely bipolar weather for a month-long vacation in Turks and Caicos. Such sudden transformations are not caused by sorcery or senioritis; alas, the skilled hand of an airbrush technician can breathe life into the stressed-out souls of teenage girls everywhere. 

It is no secret that the majority of contemporary society is obsessed with being bronzed, and there are even statistics to back that up; eighty percent of people aged twenty-five and younger believe they look better with a tan. Every spring and summer break, an unspoken competition breaks out within the female race, each beautiful individual yearning to return home with the most envious glow. Who doesn't want to show off toned and tanned legs in short-shorts and sundresses? Nonetheless finding common ground between preserving health and satisfying these beauty preferences is a treacherous task, as the Skin Cancer Foundation depicts how "new research shows that even a mild to moderate increase in sun exposure over an extended period, with or without sunburn, may significantly spur the growth of pigmented moles in children, thereby greatly increasing their risk of skin cancers."

Before you consider lying out in the sun for hours on end, consider this: teenage skin, scientists believe, is more vulnerable to sun damage than adult skin because cells are dividing and changing at a more rapid rate in adolescents than in the bodies of adults. I am living proof of this; growing up, I hated sunscreen and refused, at all costs, to slather myself in the disgusting liquid. I detested the consistency (and have always been awesomely stubborn). Around the age of twelve I finally succumed to my mother's demands and allowed myself to be smothered in the blanket of white goo, but the damage was already done. My cheeks are permanently stained an alarming state of pink-y red, serving as a constant reminder of how powerful the sun truly is. Now, as a seventeen-year-old girl, I load up on sunscreen constantly... and rely on spray tans to enhance my natural beauty whenever I feel as if I am in need of a little ego boost. This, too, comes with a price; there is a certain notorious stigma against spray tans, especially among high school students. Upon multiple occasions I have witnessed friends and peers being shamed for getting spray tans, and have received the same distinct disapproval when I, too, have admitted to getting them. 

But why do people care? Why do people shame the "safest" way to look tan when braving the summer sun can kill you? The Skin Cancer Foundation promotes "a 2002 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute [that] found that using indoor tanning devices increased the risk of skin cancers - 2.5 times for squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times for basal cell carcinoma - compared with nonusers." Malignant melanoma is the fifth most common cancer found in individuals aged fifteen to twenty-four; the numbers of cases are approximately twice as high in women than in men. Obtaining a natural tan is actually unhealthy; the darkened skin serves as your body's external warning sign of impending sun damage. Using an indoor tanning bed for just one session increases your chances of developing melanoma by twenty percent, and every time you go back to wear those stupid glasses and lie in what can be referred to as a "death bed," you boost your risk by another two percent. So now, let me ask you again: What is so bad about getting a spray tan? 

When I go to get spray tans, primarily for big events and swimsuit season, I make sure that what I am putting onto my body is natural. The tans I receive are organic and botanical, do not contain dyes or toxic chemicals, and are paraben and phenoxyethanol free. The price I pay for these tans isn't years off my life, just money out of my wallet. My two favorite spray tanning salons in Denver, Sinless Sun and Glow Body and Sun, provide a tan that is never splotchy, smelly, or make me look like Snooki or a crazed Oompa Loompa. Before each session, I shave and exfoliate the entirety of my body, then strip down to the nude to be transformed from an icy snow queen into a white-haired albeit tanned goddess. Fifteen minutes of posing and a few ten dollar bills lost allows for me to feel more confident in myself when my naturally pale exterior feels drab. I am not risking melanoma and I am not putting anything to shame. I think I look better with a tan. So let me ask you for the very last time... What is so bad about spray tans?