Home US I have a dirty little secret. I’m a sun lounger addict. My husband begged me to stop…but one thing finally made me realize that the risks are too great.

I have a dirty little secret. I’m a sun lounger addict. My husband begged me to stop…but one thing finally made me realize that the risks are too great.

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About 28 percent of people ages 16 to 65 still go to tanning shops or use private tanning beds, despite skin cancer risks.

Inside a salon on a posh London street, I turn up the collar of my trench coat and put on my sunglasses before heading out. When I reach the threshold, I furtively check both ways to make sure no one has seen me before hitting the sidewalk.

I’m not stealing or buying products that should be in a brown paper bag, but I have a dirty little secret. The truth is that I come from a sun lounger store.

No, I don’t have a death wish and yes, I have read a diary for the past few years. I know that sunbed use is linked to skin cancer. So why the hell am I doing it? Why would an educated, thirty-something woman with a high-level career like me take the risk?

What’s worse, it’s not like it’s an occasional tanner. I have been using loungers every week on and off for eight years. At the height of my addiction, before my wedding, I used them every day for ten minutes at a time. While spending time on a lounger isn’t safe, that kind of heavy use is especially dangerous, especially for someone as naturally pale as me.

In all other respects, my lifestyle is healthy. I don’t smoke, I’ve stopped drinking, I’m very conscious of what I eat, I go to the gym, I run regularly and I always have my five a day. However, I cannot get rid of this vice, which seems even more socially unacceptable than smoking.

That’s probably why new figures showing that more than one in four of us use sun loungers surprised us so much. Nobody dares to admit it.

About 28 percent of people ages 16 to 65 still go to tanning shops or use private tanning beds, despite skin cancer risks.

The research, from skin cancer charity Melanoma Focus, revealed that 28 per cent of people aged 16 to 65 still go to tanning shops or use private sun loungers. This is despite 62 per cent being aware that sunbed use can increase the risk of skin cancer because ultraviolet light damages the DNA of cells.

I have lots of friends where I live in Oxfordshire who use sun loungers – rich, delicious mummies who spend time and money on their appearance. They admit to using Botox in a way they never would with their tanning bed addiction.

My exposure to tanning started early. I grew up with a chaise lounge in the family home, a giant thing made of wood that resembles a human oven. We kept it in what also served as a study. When I ask now, they tell me it was because dad “had a back injury” and a doctor had advised him to use a sun lounger.

I suspect it had more to do with his penchant for year-round tanning and his love of a pair of white Speedos on our regular trips to Spain.

I remember coming home from Brownies around age seven and seeing the Steven Spielberg-esque bright blue light emanating from the hallway. You would hear this comical ‘ding’, like an oven alarm, when your tanning time was up. To be fair to him, Dad stopped using it when he realized it was dangerous in the early ’90s, but it remained in the house, untouched, for many years.

My own obsession began in my teens, when tanned and toned pop stars like Britney Spears were the pin-ups of the moment. Girls began to arrive at school with mahogany-colored limbs and proudly said that they used deck chairs.

One day, when my parents were out, I dared to turn on dad’s old machine. He was 15 and I did it for ten minutes, my heart pounding with worry of being discovered.

It didn’t seem to do much to my skin. The second time I tried it, my parents found out and went crazy. They put the fear of God in me, saying that he would burn down the house and get cancer. They scared me so much that I became an avid fake tanner: that glamorous tangerine shade that looked like Dulux and reeked of Mini Cheddars. When my friends asked me how I suddenly became so dark, I told them that I was sitting in the backyard.

Over the years, I learned the importance of exfoliating and moisturizing before applying St Tropez, until one day in 2016 I noticed that I had gotten a bit of a natural tan while sitting in the park. I had always thought that any change in pigment, other than the scarlet burn, was impossible on my skin and I was desperate to hold on to it.

I lived in London and went to a dodgy-looking beauty salon, where the hum of the cylindrical coffin-shaped lounger made me fear it was about to explode with me inside. I was more worried about burning than skin damage, but it gave me a glorious base tan. I returned the following week and thus began my obsession with sun loungers.

For years, I went through long periods of going weekly before something woke me up. He would give me a talk about skin cancer and I would leave it for four or five months.

But I would inevitably return when the promise of summer made me think about wearing my lily-white limbs.

From time to time I tried to justify myself – perversely – for health reasons. I suffer from a bit of leg psoriasis and a doctor once told a friend that sun loungers could help. It makes the redness turn white, but I know that, deep down, it’s about vanity.

What can I say? I simply believe, wrongly or correctly, that I look and feel better with a tan.

Thinking back to the times when I really tried and used loungers intensely terrifies me for what I did to my skin.

My husband and I got married on his family farm in 2021, and leading up to the big day, I was dangerously obsessed with my tan. I wanted to achieve and maintain that perfect sun-kissed, just-back-from-vacation look. I started going daily during my break times at work. Although I never burned, I developed pigmentation spots and deeper and deeper lines on my face.

Ironically, tanning has never been about impressing my husband, who always shook his head when I wore them and begged me to stop using them because of the dangers.

I was so obsessed with my wedding tan that when suddenly, on the eve of my big day, I realized I hadn’t booked that last all-important appointment and, despite my pleas, the local salon refused to accommodate me. accept me, I burst into tears. . It was already cookie-colored.

It makes me look angry, but that’s how addictive tanning is. Shortly after we got married, I had a four-month period of avoiding them. But I returned the following summer – caught by the lure of the £1-a-minute sunbed package.

Then, late last year, I found out that I was finally pregnant with the baby I had been longing for. Loungers are bad for unborn babies because they decrease folic acid levels (something that needs to be increased at this time to prevent birth defects). Increased body temperature is also thought to potentially harm the fetus.

So that was it. I left out the sun loungers despite the package I had just purchased. It wasn’t about me anymore.

I hope this spells the end of sun loungers once and for all. Not that I’ll ever come out to my family. My middle sister, who is a doctor, would probably disown me.

So for me back to the self tanner. Because while I may never bake on a lounger again, I still can’t afford to go back to my original pale white skin.

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