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Alex Smith: Bronzed skin isn’t worth the possible side effects

Thanks to my dominant Norwegian heritage and red-headed father, I don’t tan well. Even in the summer months, my pale complexion would rather burn than turn into a golden bronze. Lying out in the sun is pointless for me because all I end up with is a bad sunburn and numerous freckles on my face. However, there are many teenagers who devote a lot of time trying to perfect their tan, whether it is at the pool or just laying on their driveway.

After the summer tans fade away and the pure white winter sets in, most students tend to go back to their usual pale coloring. However, this year seemed a bit different. Instead of seeing students who look like they’ve been stuck in the icy tundra of Minnesota for too long, I pass students who look like they had just hopped off a plane fresh from the Tropics.

Teenagers and their tanning habits have been a popular topic of discussion for many years now, but the message still hasn’t stuck. Most people know that tanning is bad and it can lead to cancerous diseases, so why do we continue to do it? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, just one session of indoor tanning can increase a person’s chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent. In Minnesota, permission from parents is needed for teenagers 16 and under to use a tanning bed, but that could soon change. The House Health and Human Services Policy Committee approved a bill that would make tanning bed usage for minors under 18 illegal, which will move onto the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee for approval.

As teenagers across Minnesota rush to the shopping mall to pick out the latest fashions in Prom style, there will be without a doubt a huge crowd of teenagers scheduling appointments at tanning salons, anxious to get that perfect glow to match their dress. Though Prom may seem like the biggest social event of the year, putting yourself in danger just to “look good” is ridiculous and unnatural looking as well.

I won’t long for my peers to rock the pale look at prom, but I do hope my classmates realize that the risks of tanning aren’t worth it just for one night. Even a spray tan is safer if a tan is truly necessary to complete your prom night look.

So if you see me at the pool this summer, you can bet I’ll be slathering on some SPF 50 sunscreen and hanging out in the shade. The glow from your tan might last a month or two, but the dangers that UV radiation exposes you to could last a lifetime.

 Alex Smith is a junior at Austin High School involved in dance team, National Honor Society and the Sentinel student newspaper.