Skin

12 September 2017

Look at these extreme cases of tanning – it's called 'tanorexia'

Summer is coming – but if you are desperate for a tan, you might want to read this first. See the worst cases of tanning.

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Some celebrities take tanning to the extreme. Nicole Snooki LaValle, previous cast member of the MTV hit reality show Jersey Shore is one of them.

There is actually a name for this. An obsession with tanning, whether it's from the sun or a bottle, is called tanorexia.

An actual addiction

The need to look like a golden beach goddess is an aesthetic thing. Especially in the USA, a tan is associated with health and a pale skin with illness. The sun became associated with health when Arnold Rikli first used light therapy in 1855 to treat tuberculosis.

A sunbathed skin became popular in the 1920 through Coco Chanel, who further popularised sunbathing. Fast forward to the 2000s, to a slew of celebs who just can’t resist showing off a sun-tanned body. And while most people are fully aware of the dangers of too much sun, there are those who just can’t help themselves.

The fact that studies have shown that a tanned skin is associated with attraction, does nothing to curb this potentially deadly obsession .

And a sunbathed skin is not only about achieving good looks.

According to The American Skin Cancer Foundation, frequent tanners exhibit signs of both physical and psychological dependence, resulting in symptoms of increased tolerance, craving, and withdrawal. UV light can increase the release of opioid-like endorphins, feel-good chemicals that relieve pain and generate feelings of well-being. This means tanning is a real addiction, just like drugs and alcohol.

The wrong side of tanning

Still think there's no such thing as too much tanning?

Look at this video to get a glimpse of some of the most extreme cases of tanning: 

Too much sun

It goes without saying that too much sun increases your risk for skin cancer. According to statistics published in a Health24 article, South Africa has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world after Australia. It’s as simple as that – the more exposure to UV rays, the higher your risk of skin cancer. And it’s not just cancer – premature ageing and sun damaged skin will most certainly be your fate if you spend too much time in the sun.

Too many chemicals

While "self tan" products don't expose you to damaging UV rays, you are still exposing your body to more chemicals than you normally would. And there is a debate on whether self tan is safe to use or not.

Self tan contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA), an active colour additive that causes the top layer of the skin to darken. In small amounts, this additive is not carcinogenic and poses no real health risk.

Yet there is a more recent addition to the tanning market, self-tanning pills. These pills contain the colour additive canthaxanthin and are generally considered unsafe. In high doses, canthaxanthin can cause hives or damage to the liver or vision.

Be sun smart 

  • Wear and regularly reapply SPF50.
  • When you choose to have a spray tan, only go to reputable salons.
  • Do careful product research and educate yourself about the active ingredients.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

Ask the Expert

Skin expert

Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch. She is employed as a consultant dermatologist by Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, where she is involved in clinical duties and the training of medical students and dermatology residents. Her areas of interest and research include vitiligo, eczema and acne. She also performs limited private practice work in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town in general and cosmetic dermatology.

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