Woman’s skin cancer warning encourages alternative tanning methods

Tawney Willoughby posts a selfie to warn people of the danger of tanning beds. Willoughby's picture went viral and sparked a conversation about alternative tanning solutions.
Tawney Willoughby posts a selfie to warn people of the danger of tanning beds. Willoughby’s picture went viral and sparked a conversation about alternative tanning solutions.

Tawny Willoughby, a 27-year-old skin cancer patient, posted a “selfie” on her Facebook account recently to warn others of the effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays, particularly in tanning beds.

The photo shows dark red wounds covering Willoughby’s face and was captioned, “If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go! This is what skin cancer treatment can look like.” Willoughby explained on her Facebook post that she used tanning beds four to five times a week in her teens and spent her teens “trying to perfect her tan.” Willoughby wrote that she was diagnosed with skin cancer at age 21.

The Skin Cancer Foundation explains on its website that UV radiation damages the cellular DNA and causes genetic mutations. “UV radiation frequently plays a role in melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer,” the foundation claims. The Skin Cancer Foundation stated that approximately 250,000 Americans get melanoma skin cancer each year, and it kills more than 8,000 Americans each year.

Willoughby’s Facebook post advised others to wear sunscreen or to use alternative methods to tanning, such as spray tans. Tanning lotions and airbrush tans are also alternative methods used to getting darker skin shades.

Tanning lotions, or self-tanners, are tinted lotions users can apply themselves. Many self-tanners double as sunscreens and can be found for $10 or less at drugstores. Airbrush tans are offered at salons and spas and require an esthetician to mist the tanning solution onto the customer’s skin. Airbrush tanning is the method used by Victoria’s Secret models, according to an article by Sigourney Cantelo, of Australian Vogue Magazine.

Spray tans, offered at tanning salons and spas, are applied through an automatic misting spray in a private booth. According to Kenzie Harris, Beaches Tanning Center employee, the method of spray tanning is an effective and safe alternative.

Harris explained the process and benefits of “the mystic tan,” a spray-tanning booth. There are three different shades a customer can choose when getting a mystic tan: light, one to two shades darker; medium, three to four shades darker; and dark, five to six shades darker. When customers step into the private tanning booth, voice-activated directions tell them where to stand and how to position their bodies.

“The mystic product is a new, clear solution,” Harris said. “It adjusts and customizes to fit the user’s complexion. It always looks natural and sun-kissed.”

Harris explained that the new solution is nearly odorless, fixing the concern of the previous solution, which had a potent smell.

Harris said that each spray tan takes about 10 minutes, and results are seen after the first session. It takes one spray tan once a week to keep up the tan. UV tanning beds take five to 20 minutes each session, require three to five sessions for the first two weeks to get a base tan and one to two sessions after that, Harris explained.

“When I need quick color, spray tanning is my go-to,” Harris said. “I see color within hours, and it’s 100 percent safe for my skin.”

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