06/18/2012 10:41 EDT | Updated 08/18/2012 05:12 EDT

Why Not to Fake Tan Before Prom


When you look back at your high school graduation photo what do you regret? Maybe an awkward outfit, some unfortunate eye shadow? I would love to give my 18-year-old self a flat iron and an eyebrow wax. Today's teen girls face a much more terrifying regret -- their tan.

The latest "it" accessory for prom is a tan, and the tanning industry knows this. They tell the girls it will make them look thinner and prettier and that "Everyone's doing it!" A quote from the "Tan Today" industry blog in July 2011 states, "If they don't start tanning for prom they will never become a customer." Sound familiar? Does this remind anyone of the tobacco battle of the last 30 years?

But what are the risks? For once in my life I will say that Angelina and Nicole Kidman have the edge here. They keep their skin porcelain white. They know what we as dermatologists know, that 90 per cent of aging is sun-induced, whether it's indoor or outdoor tanning. So, looking back at yearbook pictures these girls may long for younger looking skin robbed from them by the tanning bed.

But the real tragedy may come when they realize that their time under the tanning bed lights has left them with a longer lasting momento than their preserved corsage. They may get skin cancer to remind them of their days in the tanning bed. As experts in skin care, we know that there is no longer significant scientific debate that indoor tanning causes cancer. In 2009, tanning devices were classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization. That was based on an analysis of 20 studies that found the risk of melanoma skin cancer rose 75 per cent in people who started indoor tanning before age 30.

So, if you love your daughter, sister, niece, plead with them to go tan-free for prom. It will be graduation advice that may save their life!