Kate Sullivan, Allure magazine
Early August is when it begins: The deluge of back-to-school ads telling parents and kids that everything from notebooks to jeans must be fresh in order to face the brave new world of September. But a new story in USA Today highlighting some of the stranger back-to-school offers (e.g. discounted skateboards) listed one promotion that is actually troubling. James Oliver, CEO of Beach Bum Tanning, suggested that tanning is a back-to-school essential: "Going into your first class, you want to look the best you can," he said.
See more: Top 21 Drugstore Beauty Bargains
With recent laws making it impossible for teens in some states to go tanning without parental permission, it's in poor taste and well, poor intelligence, to market directly to the back-to-school crowd. Sure, Oliver could have exclusively meant college students. Or perhaps was suggesting spray-tans and not tanning bed time. (Though new research suggests that the chemicals in spray-tans aren't exactly aromatherapy when inhaled.) But when I visited the Beach Bum website I found more disturbing quotes from the company, for example, the suggestion that "A base tan is 'Nature's Sunblock'-it is your body's natural and intended way to prevent sunburn. It multiplies the effectiveness of sunscreen in preventing sunburn." Um, no. Saying that a base tan "multiplies" the effect of sunscreen in preventing burns is a wildly dangerous exaggeration.
See more: The 10 Commandments of Mascara
According to the Mayo Clinic, a base tan has an SPF of 4 or less-giving you mere minutes more of sun exposure before you're risking a burn-and in order to get that unimpressive coverage, you're incurring damage. Stats from the American Association for Cancer Research found that using a tanning bed increased one's melanoma risk up to 74 percent. So a "base tan" is hardly a safety measure.
See more: The 6 Most Flattering Haircuts for Round Faces
Instead of tanning as a back-to-school purchase, what about sunscreen?