How I Went from Using Tanning Beds 4 times per Week to Being Totally Goo Goo GaGa for Sunscreen
When I was in high school, I used tanning beds. A lot.
My older sister took me to use one for the first time when I was a 14-year-old freshman after I freaked out over my Oregon-pasty-pale skin. I only went for like 7 minutes that first time, but it was January, and I was hooked.
Somehow later that year, I convinced my mom to not only go tanning with me, but to buy me a tanning package. Although apprehensive, my mom has always been a sun goddess, and agreed that we would go together. We went Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays pretty consistently that spring and developed some noteworthy base tans.
Oregon's summers are relatively hot, so I could pretty much get my tan on from June through September each year, but when the colder months rolled around, I was jonesin' for those those artificial UV rays. In retrospect, I probably had some form of seasonal depression, which is common for people in the Northwest. (But honestly, we can more accurately just blame a lot of that on basic teenage angst and my unhealthy adolescent vanity.)
Anyway, when I finally got my driver's license my sophomore year, I was off to the tanning salon to buy myself another month of premature aging! My mom was not down with my unnatural, deepening tan, and would frequently call me out for over-tanning, which caused somewhat of an awkward rift between us. At one point (and I hate admitting this), I was using tanning beds like 6 days a week. It looked weird. It looked totally weird. It was November in Oregon, and I looked like a teenage Donald Trump.
But I was addicted.
It's like when you see or hear about people with eating disorders who look in the mirror and think they're fat when they're actually thinner than everyone else. That was me! But with tanning.
"Yeah, she was hot...but she could have been, just like, a shade tanner." -Said no guy ever.
My mom ended up calling the tanning salon to tell them that I was underage and to not let me tan more than 3 times per week. I was humiliated, but even worse: I was worried I'd get pale. (What a fucking moron.)
I mean, look at this photo of me and my oldest sister in Hawaii when I was 17! We don't even look related! I was so dumb.
Okay, so fast-forward to college. I kept up the freakish tanning for the most part, but eased up here and there, depending on the state of my broke student budget.
Then after a few more years, I started to finally get it. I didn't want to look like I had a fake tan. It didn't look good. I didn't want to age my skin prematurely. I didn't want that flat, tan look that you can only get from artificial bulbs. I didn't want to keep wasting my money on something so superficial and straight up bad for me. And I definitely didn't want the faint wrinkle lines on my chest to get even worse.....because I was only 23!
Around age 26, started to notice a few fine lines around my eyes from watching so much Netflix on my laptop with my face smashed into a pillow. So I hastily made an appointment with a dermatologist for a Retin-A prescription. I knew in my heart and my brain (from obsessive beauty research over the years) that this was the only product that would truly reverse fine lines and other signs of aging.
And guess what? Retin-A doesn't work with tan skin. And if you don't use SPF with it, your face will freak the fuck out and you will regret it.
So that was that. I definitely did some damage with tanning beds over the years, but I'm hoping to reverse some of that with ongoing use of Retin-A and prevent future damage by being an SPF nazi. (Plus I also used an at-home laser hair remover on my legs over the past couple of years, and you can't have tan skin for that either.)
Currently, I use SPF 50 oil on my face every damn day, even in the winter, and am currently working my way through a bottle of SPF 50 sunscreen for babies (gentle enough for them, gentle enough for me?) as my daily body moisturizer.
Also, a sunburn is basically like injuring your body's largest organ, so I'm pretty much gonna do everything in my power to never let that happen again.