A Recovering Tanorexic: My Story.

Southern California is known for it’s sunny weather, beaches and summers.

People flock here from all over the country {and world} to vacation.

And this was my home year around.

I grew up in the sun.

Loving the sun.

As a child, when the sun was out, it meant that you could go outside and play.

As a teenager, when the sun was out, it meant that you could go layout by the pool or at the beach.

Oh, the sun was so wonderful.

There was nothing better than getting up in the morning, changing into my bathing suit, slathering on some coconut scented oil {with absolutely NO SPF} and going to layout by the pool. Or, even better, float around in an inflatable lounger. The sun felt amazing. So warm. With a cool breeze and an ice tea to cool you down. Or maybe even a quick dip in the pool, just so the sun could warm you back up and dry you off. And the aroma of coconut filling the air.

A little slice of paradise in my own backyard.

Not a care in the world.

Except having something to show for your time in the sun.

A beautiful golden brown tan.

A welcomed side effect to time spent lounging by the pool or laying on the beach.

As time went on, it became less of a side effect and more of a goal.

To the point that I was laying out with one purpose: to get as dark as possible.

The primary goal was no longer to relax. It was to spend a few morning hours baking outside before I got ready for the day. My tan would be on track for fast results in no time flat.

{A beachy tan}

But after high school, I didn’t have time to take advantage of the sun.

I worked. And I went to college. And I worked some more.

I saw the sun from inside my car as I commuted an hour each way to school.

After college, I saw the sun from a window inside my office.

My days off were spent running errands, cleaning house, and taking care of other such adult responsibilities.

I didn’t have time to just go sit by a pool and relax on a daily (or even weekly) basis.

I didn’t have time to spend a few hours laying out in the morning.

But that didn’t stop my craving for a tan.

No. I wasn’t going to give it up, I was just going to be more efficient about it.

I could achieve the same results in less than 20 minutes.


In a tanning bed.

The best part was that it replicated the feeling of being outside.

You get to slather on your coconut scented tan accelerator.

Then close your eyes to the warm sun-like bulbs and gentle breeze from the fan.

All while listening to relaxing music.

20 minutes of heaven.

In my busy, overwhelming, stressful day, it was my time to relax.

To not think about a care in the world.

And certainly not to think about what this was doing to my skin.

On the surface, all I could see was a nice golden glow.

And, being perfectly honest, I like the way I look in a tan.

I feel like I look so much healthier with a little color.

How ironic is that?

What I considered “looking healthy” was in fact destroying my skin.

I justified tanning like I had swallowed a tanning salon pamphlet.

Everything from helping Seasonal Affective Disorder (which I didn’t suffer from) to giving yourself a “base tan” first so you wouldn’t burn in the sun (which I didn’t. I have olive undertones to my skin which rarely gets bad sunburns.)

But I was only fooling myself.

I knew there had to be danger in laying on artificial light bulbs.

I just never thought I’d be the one anything would happen to.

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As time went on, and my mid twenties approached, I didn’t tan very often.

The burden of damaging my skin was something that began to weigh heavy on me.

When I did tan, I would spray tan instead.

No harm to my skin, somewhat similar results.

It was hit or miss though.

Sometimes spray tanning looked good, and other times I thought it looked completely fake.

And I hated the smell.

I thought it smelled like a corn tortilla.

And there was no amount of lotion or perfume that can mask the smell of a tortillaria.

Not to mention having to master the lotion barrier technique so the tan blends evenly on your hands and feet without staining your cuticles, palms and soles.

It was fine, but it wasn’t the real thing.

And in winter, it was freezing.

But I suppose it was better than UV rays, naturally or artificially.

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Then I stopped tanning altogether.

I felt disgusting.

Like I looked sickly without a tan.

I was working a whole lot and didn’t always feel like getting sprayed and smelling like tortillas.

And it was expensive!

Nothing like my 30 dollars per month unlimited tanning beds I had before.

{In my office. Tanless.}

And I just got used to not being tan.

Or using some makeup bronzer to give me a little color.

But it certainly wasn’t what I preferred.

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I had always envisioned myself TAN on my wedding day.

Not tan.


Like I would be golden brown.


Because tan is beautiful.

And your wedding day is the one day where you should be the most beautiful that you’ve ever looked.


And I had full intentions of tanning.

The real way.

Spray tan is way too risky. I didn’t want to be orange or look fake.

But as my wedding approached, my plan to be tan came to a sudden halt.

{Tanless on my wedding day, with my sisters Emily, left, and Jessica, right.}

I learned something that would forever change the way I looked at the sun, tanning and health.

My little sister was diagnosed with Melanoma.

Skin Cancer.

She was 21 when she was diagnosed.

Reality set in real fast.

People die from Melanoma.

It’s was too late for her to be cautious and to take preventative steps.

Now, she had to get rid of it.


And she did. Praise the Lord.

But for a moment in time, there was absolute fear.

For her.

And, upon reflection, for me.

Because if anyone should have it, it should be me.

I tanned a whole lot.

I was careless.

I was flat out irresponsible all in the name of vanity.

And the day Emily found out she had Melanoma was the day I decided to never tan again.

Yes, because skin cancer is real.

But also because her life has completely changed because of it.

She has to get checked for signs of anything suspicious a few times a year.

She has to wear SPF all over her body every day before she leaves the house.

She can’t just sit outside in the sun like most people do.

She has to be vigilant.

Knowing this, I can’t imagine continuing to “take a chance” with my own skin.

Not after seeing what she went through.

It was time to get serious.

That was 4 years ago.

She is still cancer free.


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Oh, how I wish I would have taken care of my skin better when I was younger.

I haven’t seen the full effect of the damage I have caused myself just yet.

I have some sun spots, but can mask them with makeup.

I can only hope that my efforts to protect my skin now will prevent me from reaping the consequences of my careless youth. It’s worth a try.

I now wear sunscreen on my face everyday.

I wear sunscreen on my body.

Like real sunscreen.

Not a “put my mind at ease that I’m sorta kinda doing something by wearing 15 spf”.

I wouldn’t even think about going to a tanning bed ever again.

Or laying out for the purpose of getting tan.

But, changing the way I think about being tan is not easy for me.

I still crave laying out in the sun.

Or relaxing at a tanning salon.

When I go to the beach, I don’t WANT to sit under an umbrella or in the shade.

When summer approaches, I still get excited about the thought of being tan.

Like it is a right of passage into summer.

And then I get disappointed knowing that will never happen again.

I remind myself of why I’m doing it.

To show my support for my sister.

{We’re bringing pasty back. haha}

If she has to forfeit her tan, she might as well know she is not alone.

And for my own health.


It is a struggle.

I’m a recovering tanorexic.

I will always be one.

Now, to find a good self tanner.

One that doesn’t smell like corn tortillas.

Or look like an oompa loompa.

And isn’t all messy.

Or streaky.

Is that asking too much?

Up next… Emily’s story. Stay tuned.

PS. Did y’all know that May is National Skin Cancer Awareness month?

Take the pledge and promise yourself a life of healthy skin.

Pass this lifestyle onto your children.

Let them form good habits when they are young.

They will thank you later. :)

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