There could be no clearer sign indicative of the prevalence of tanning as an issue in our culture than the admission of the word ‘tanorexia’ into the Oxford dictionary:
[mass noun] informal – blend of ‘tan’ and ‘anorexia’
And the worst part is, it’s was coined way back in the ’80s.
The condition has drawn much attention as of late thanks to Patricia Krentcil, a mum in the US who last year was “accused of letting her 5-year-old daughter go in a tanning booth.” According to this Huffington Post article, ‘the owner of the tanning salon that Krentcil reportedly frequented said that she ‘tanned about 20 times a month, and about five days a week.’ Excessive tanning can be considered a form of addiction in certain sufferers who may require psychological assistance to overcome it. In fact, a 2010 study in the journal Archives of Dermatology indicated that despite every one of their interviewees (who were college aged tanning bed users) knowing about the risks of skin cancer as a result of tanning, 98% of them said that this knowledge didn’t deter them.
Thanks to mainstream media, tanorexia, like anorexia, has been born out of a culture that relishes in the scrutinising of body image and sets very restrictive guidelines on how people should look in order to appear attractive. The worst part is that many sufferers resort to solariums to try to achieve a ‘natural’ tan, but according to the Skin Cancer Foundation: indoor tanning is particularly dangerous with users being 74% more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.
With Tumblr pages dedicated to showcasing examples, and blogs intended to help answer your question of whether you are a suffer; tanorexia is clearly a real issue born out of a mindset we know dates back centuries. Thankfully though, the likening of a tanning obsession to the serious health condition anorexia, of which many are now well educated on, highlights that at least people are starting to become aware of the severity and implications of tanning, especially as a result of excessive sun exposure. Sites such as these tanorexia tumblr pages are fantastic in that they are sparking a dialogue, particularly young people, about the unattractive side of looking overly tanned.
While I do not in any way vindicate the ridiculing of anyone, especially if they have a real problem such as an addiction, the particular condition of tanorexia has been born out of a social stigma that is just unnecessary and it needs to be spoken about as a negative health issue. Thankfully, people are starting to take note. The more people are exposed to the unattractive side of tanning, the less likely it is that they will pursue the look.