Sephora Senior Writer Kelley Hoffman on her experience.
Here’s some #beautynostalgia for you: During high school, in the late ’90s and early ’00s, it was cool at my California high school to get tanning salon “tattoos.” Girls would put stickers on their bodies in different shapes and after a few sessions, would show off their pale favorite animal or crushes’ initials with teen girl pride. I never did this trend because it didn’t fit into my fair-skinned, emo style at the time—but I didn’t even consider the risks indoor tanning could have, and since have had, on my generation.
The only time I used tanning salons was in my early 20s, when I lived in New York and Prague. The winters were a cold I’d never experienced before, and a friend recommended I do a few low-level, short sessions to improve my mood. I probably didn’t even do more than 10 visits over a few years, but I wish I’d never gone at all.
Fast-forward to age 28. I have never had a mole-check at a dermatologist, and upon hearing this, my boss at Sephora urges me to see the dermatologist across the street from our office. After a full-body examination, the doctor removes one suspicious mole from my chest. It hadn’t stood out to me before, but when I thought about it, I did realize it sometimes cracked and was a little more shiny and pink than other moles. I thought she was just testing it to be safe—I’d surely be fine!
When the tests came back from the lab, I found out it was basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer. While not as life-threatening as melanoma, I was told I would have to have a procedure to remove the cancer cells—it could grow to be disfiguring if gone untreated.*
Most of us have experienced an annoying sunburn. But the smell of your own burning flesh—which arose, without warning, from my anesthetized chest while my doctor worked—is far more sobering.
I now have a scar on my chest to remind me of my brush with skin cancer, and not only will I never step foot inside an indoor tanning salon, I’m as devoted to wearing sunscreen as I am to brushing my teeth.
I’m not sure what makes Millennials feel so invincible to skin cancer—maybe we just feel like it’ll never happen to us, or it’s something we should worry about when we’re older. But the facts are terrifying—especially for young people.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a new study shows that melanoma has grown by 800 percent in young women over the past 40 years, and 400 percent in young men. While men have a higher lifetime risk of melanoma, researchers believe the reverse gender rise in youth is due to the popularity of indoor tanning to young women.
I urge you to check out other skin cancer facts from the Skin Cancer Foundation; they might just save your life. Please, this month, make your mole-check appointment, invest in your SPF routine, and look at the incredible self-tanning options out there instead of indoor tanning.
*all information from the Skin Cancer Foundation.