Lisa Markwell: A good tan isn't worth dying for

We need to get serious about this: sunbeds should be banned altogether

Share
Related Topics

The beauty salon at the end of my road is advertising sunbed sessions at 60p a go. As I trudge past, in raincoat and sou'wester, it's a tempting prospect. The closest thing any of us will get to the fabled "barbecue summer" is if we fry ourselves under a UV lamp.

But, of course, we won't. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which already classed sunbeds as "probably carcinogenic to humans", has now implicated them as a high cancer risk, on a par with cigarettes, alcohol and asbestos. Asbestos, the scariest substance this side of kryptonite... That's enough to put off anyone hankering after a golden glow without recourse to southern Europe's sunshine.

Sunbeds used to be an essential weapon in the twentysomething's beauty arsenal. Before the advent of fake-tanning lotions, toasting oneself for 20 minutes on a bed – invariably at a dodgily carpeted "salon" that also offered highlights and false nails – was all part of getting ready for the weekend. As a callow (and sallow) youth, I once actually went on a date to a tanning salon.

No one who has lain, dressed only in paper pants and goggles, on cold glass in a construction eerily reminiscent of a coffin, could be under any illusion that it is healthy. It is almost possible to hear the skin crackling as the ultraviolent radiation does its thing. Carcinogenic is a term more often used to describe burnt meat. Exactly...

In recent years, sunbeds have become devalued as women – and no small number of men, for tans have unisex appeal – abandoned them for St Tropez or Fake Bake bronzing creams, applied at home by rubbing or spraying over the body. These had a certain cachet, being more expensive than the new generation of UV fakery, which required one to stand, shivering, in an upright "coffin" for six minutes of super-high intense blasting.

Those left behind to continue using sunbeds – and using these newer machines has been said by experts to contribute to trebling the risk of developing skin cancer – have been children, for whom St Tropez at £17.50 is unaffordable. A "grown-up" tan like their heroines Victoria Beckham or Cheryl Cole for less than a pound is desirable and affordable.

It seems extraordinary that there is currently no legislation in England to prevent under-18s from using them (although Scotland has approved such a ban, after waves of negative publicity around the number of cheapo salons there frequented by school children).

The Department of Health has said in response to the IARC's statement that it may look at introducing new laws to prevent young people from misusing them. May look? Can we please stop talking about this and start doing something? That UV rays cause damage is no real newsflash, but this is serious. Sunbeds should be banned altogether – there's no credible evidence that there are any health benefits to artificial sunshine.

And I can't believe that a wishy-washy "let's get the salon staff to ensure no one stays on too long" policy will work; the profit margins, if any, are too small to encourage abstinence.

Rather like being slim, being tanned as a beauty objective is unlikely to go away anytime soon, so let the switch-flickers in the salons retrain as masseurs, the better to perform streak-free applications of bulk-bought tanning lotions on to those dying to be brown. Anything's better than actually dying, to be brown.

l.markwell@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A sculpture illustrating the WW1 Christmas Truce football match in Liverpool  

It might have been 100 years since the Christmas Truce, but football is still changing the world

Jim Murphy and Dan Jarvis
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there