When I was about 10 years old, my best friend introduced me to the concept of deliberately burning ones skin.
Back then I was horrified – but by the time I hit my teens, tanning was easily the most popular after-school activity on the Sunshine Coast. While the guys surfed, the girls spent hours on the beach slathered in SPF 0 tanning oil. To speed up the process, many would also visit solariums and spray tan salons every other week. The growing popularity of these practices was obvious during graduation, when the girls glowed under the stage lights and smelled faintly of coconuts and cat pee.
Spray tan shades and smells seem to have improved since then – and an entire industry has continued to grow around the demand for brown skin. But this has done little to curb the enduring popularity of a real tan. Despite growing up with slip, slop, slap on the television and skin cancer education in schools, young people are still avoiding proper skin protection. The Cancer Council’s latest National Sun Protection Survey found 45 per cent of teens aged 12 to 17 preferred a tan despite the dangers, with one in five getting sunburnt on a typical summer weekend.
But what’s so great about a tan? To many of my friends, it’s absolutely necessary to have one before a night out. They say a tan gives them confidence and makes them look healthier, thinner and more attractive. Apparently, darker skin also makes their eyes pop, their teeth look whiter and their muscles more defined. To me, they just look brown.
So many teens and twenty-somethings are deliberately ignoring a lifetime of sun-smart campaigns, traumatising their skin cells and risking cancer to appear healthier. What more can sun safety and cancer organisations do?
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.