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Shedding Light on One (Expensive) Perk of Fake Tanning

In the spirit of trying everything once—and scoring some much needed Vitamin D—our editor visits a tanning salon. Like most things that are bad for you, it was kind of fun.

Our theme for April—"Spring Fever" couldn't arrive soon enough. Here in New York City, each day has been grayer than the last. So when my friend asked me recently if I wanted to go tanning—because, I kid you not, he was "craving Vitamin D" the way one might pine for chocolate or ice cream—I decided to lift my personal ban on fake tanning. Like most things that are bad for you, it was kind of fun.

I see few benefits to tanning salons (especially given that indoor tanners are 74% more likely to develop skin cancer). In addition to the health risks, the expense always seemed like an easy mistake to avoid. I know plenty of people—men and women alike—who have shelled out hundreds (maybe thousands) on tanning. It's baffling to me. But something called to me this time. I was so desperate for sunlight. So I justified my friend's proposition as life experience. Try everything once, right? Thus, 30 minutes later, I was at the salon and $20 poorer. That cost was for just six minutes of tanning—which meant I was getting lots of UV rays in very little time.

To my surprise, the six minutes were entirely awesome—on the surface, anyway. As I stepped into the upright booth and started the machine, bright lights powered on and Demi Lovato's "Neon Lights" started blaring. Suddenly, huge fans were blowing around me from all angles. As instructed, I had my hands raised above my head so the rays would get evenly distributed. Without even thinking, I started dancing. I couldn't help myself. For six minutes, I just raved like I was at an Ibiza beachside nightclub. I had thrown down $20 for this, and given that I typically complain if a bar comes with as much as a $5 cover charge, I was intent on getting my money's worth.

As the lights shut off, the heat powered down and the fans whirred to a halt. I could sense the slight redness my skin had acquired, like a faint, pigmented hope for boardwalks and beach cruisers. "That's it?" I thought to myself, imagining other ways I could have spent the $20. After we left, my friend asked if I had liked the experience. "That was actually really really fun," I responded, examining my hands for a darker shade (it did work, by the way, so I understand how the addiction starts). Then, remarking on the week's forecast of rain and clouds and cool temperatures, he asked if I would do it again.

"Absolutely not."

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