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The Look Was Tan…

tan butt shutterstock image tan line

Sup Tan Butts?

Let Me Take You Back to Another Time

The year was 2002. The geographical area was Central New Jersey. The style at the time? Tan. Very Tan.

Yolo All the Way to the Dermatologist

I was 16 years old the first time I visited a tanning salon. At this stage in my life, I do not remember what brought me in. Was it curiosity? An event? Maybe the allure of having a Playboy Bunny shaped tan line on my hipbone? Regardless, now I accept that I am pale with pink undertones to my skin. I burn easily without sunscreen, and I am itchy a lot #fabulous. At 16 though, I did not give one single f*ck. I wanted to be tan, so I went in 5 minutes too long and burned like I’d been at the beach all day. It hurt, but once the burn faded, I looked a little tan.

Sure, the ‘tech’ at the front desk could have guided me, but she was legitimately in my algebra class, and I wanted to have an appearance of tan knowledge. You must be 18 to use and work in a tanning salon nowadays, but in 2002 it was the wild west. Kids challenging other kids to be the tannest.

But it’s Prom and I NEED TO BE TAN!

I avoided the burn bed for a bit after my initial session, but by the time senior prom was coming up THE LOOK WAS STILL TAN, so I did some research and discovered the appropriate tan time for my pale tush. The follow-up experience was much better. The smell of coconut lotion, relaxing whir of the tanning machine, Lifehouse blasting through my Walkman CD player, and solitude – were heaven. I started tanning twice a week for months until prom and let me tell you…I WAS TAN.

I stopped visiting the salon shortly after that, partially because I was embracing my inner goth and wanted to be pale, and partly because I knew that there was a risk to tanning and I occasionally like to pretend I’m holistic. As we moved into 2010 and beyond, tanning became widely known to cause skin cancer. I mean, we knew all along right, but when it gets shouted in your face constantly you finally say, “OK I GET IT THE LOOK IS NO LONGER TAN.”

‘Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Cancer Causing Sun…’

This is a tale as old as 1960, when tanning salons were first introduced in the western world. Young girl wants to be tan. Girl trades a few years from her youthful appearance to achieve the fresh from the hot box bronze skin tone of her dreams. Girl realizes she is not immortal and starts sleeping in SPF 50+.

Fast forward to April of 2022, I noticed a spot on the side of my nose. It was a super teeny, size of a pencil tip thin, but it was annoying. It flaked, I scratched it, it bled, scabbed, and the process repeated. I decided in August I really needed to get back to the dermatologist. There was a gut feeling that it was not normal for a pimple or scab to party so long.

I called Dr. Janet Lin of Us Dermatology Partners in August and her first available appointment was late October. She was highly recommended by a friend, so I accepted the wait time, scheduled and went about my life. Me and my spot just taking on the world.

Appointment Day

Appointment day rolls around, and I bounce into Dr. Lin’s office. It’s probably nothing so I go in like it’s nothing. Turns out, my friend ‘Spot’ is not nothing, but it’s not a big deal either. That little spot is something called Actinic Keratosis, a pre-cancerous spot or sun damage. Only 5% of these spots turn into cancer after 10 years, but better to be safe than sorry. Next week I’m popping back in to get that spot frozen off my face with liquid nitrogen. I’ll have a scab for a bit, but it’s an easy procedure. Plus, I’ll leave knowing that spot won’t be turning into cancer. I’m also now aware of what to look for on my skin moving forward.

I have tanned a total of 40 times in my entire life, and the damage from those sessions will continue to show up as I get older. Without a genetic predisposition to skin cancer, this Actinic Keratosis is truly not a large concern for me personally. I believe that if I get regular dermatology checkups, use sunscreen, and be aware of changes to my skin, I can tackle any issues that arise.

Get Thee to a Doctor!

I can’t take back the tanning, but I can be more aware of my skin as it changes and continue to trust my gut. If you visited tanning beds in the early 2000’s, and feel/see something strange appear, get it checked! It may be nothing, it may be minor like Actinic Keratosis, or it could a more serious form of skin cancer. The key is early intervention, and healthcare is selfcare. Remember that pimples don’t last for a year. If it’s still there, it’s not a pimple.

Wear Sunscreen You Tan Clown.

Lastly, and I only have to say this because it’s a post about tanning. If you don’t already know…wear sunscreen. Who needs sunscreen? The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends everyone wear sunscreen because anyone can get skin cancer! One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Get yourself a broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays) of SPF 30 or higher and wear it every day.

Check Below For My Personal Favorites!


Tula Skincare SPF

Tula Skincare Protect & Glow SPF30


SPF 30 CeraVe

CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30


Sun Bum Target SPF 50 tan

Sun Bum Face SPF 50

Author: Jenna Levine Liu, Founder and President of Sixx Cool Moms! Find a Cool Moms Chapter Near You!

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