By: Elizabeth Donovan, M.A.
Girls are notorious for desiring that “perfect” sun-drenched tan, but many teens remain unaware – or prefer to turn a blind-eye – to the dangers that sun damage can cause. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, of the 1 million new cases of skin cancer reported in 2008, roughly 2,000 of them were women age 15 to 29 years old.
The trend to tan is not showing signs of slowing- girls today, more than ever, are using the beach and tanning beds at an alarming rate. It’s often easy for parents to explain the dangers of sunburn and skin damage to their teenage daughter, but very difficult – if not impossible- to enforce it. After all, we live in a society that still relishes and admires the golden glow of bronze colored skin.
So what’s a parent to do when your daughter decides she doesn’t need to apply sunblock? Or nixes the idea that skin cancer is a very real and threatening danger to her youthful skin? Try these tips to help create dialog between you and your daughter and reinforce the danger of skin damage.
Solutions for Teen Tanning:
• Discuss skin cancer. It’s true that in theory teens often tune their parents out, but in truth, teenage girls DO listen to what their parents have to say on important topics. Talk to your daughter about the dangers of skin cancer. Explain the difference between UVA and UVB rays. Let her know that both are damaging to the outer and deeper layers of her the skin. Tanning is a form of damage.
If there is someone you know that has had skin cancer, talk about it with her. Often real life examples help teens understand that skin cancer “can” happen to them too.
• Let her know that you are concerned about her health. It’s all too common for parents to tell their daughters they “cannot” do something without explaining why or the reasons for their disapproval. She’s more likely to respect your opinion if your daughter understand’s why you feel so strongly.
• A picture is worth a thousand words. By nature, teenagers are a narcessitic bunch. Parents can actually help their teenage daughters understand the dangers of tanning by appealing to their personalities. Show your daughter pictures of sun damaged skin. Let your teen know that not only can sun damage cause skin cancer, but it is a process that can age her drastically -including, wrinkles, blemishes, freckles, and dangerous moles.
Most teenage girls are aware of the danger of skin cancer, but figure “it won’t happen to me.” However, by showing your daughter the immediate effects of sun damage, she may be more willing to salvage her skin and avoid the sun.
• Discuss safe tanning alternatives. If your daughter insists on tanning, give her some safe options. Spray tanning (offered in many tanning salons) and sunless tanning creams and lotions are a good alternative and will provide your daughter with a safe bronze glow.
Monitor her use of tanning salons. It’s often difficult to control our teenage daughter’s actions, but there are ways you can help decrease her ability to use tanning salons by either refusing to give her money to go to the tanning salon or escorting her there for “timed” sessions. By taking her to the salon, you can make sure she uses sunscreen and limits her time in the tanning bed.
• Purchase sunscreen/sunblock for her. This solutions may sound rather simplistic, but your teenage daughter is more likely to grab the sunscreen on the way out of the door if she has easy access to it and it doesn’t come out of her own spending money. You can make it more enticing by purchasing something that smells good. Teens often respond to lotions or sprays that make them smell good like Hawaiian Tropic’s SPF 50 Sheer Touch Crème Lotion or SPF 30 Sheer Touch Lotion.
While parents certainly cannot control exactly how much sun exposure their daughter’s receive, you do have the power to speak your mind and intervene when necessary. Helping your daughter today will save her skin tomorrow.
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