.Under the UV Sun

Base tans are the new teen fashion must. Well, that and melanoma.

Diana’s legs are white. And the prom is just four weeks away.

But she’s out there, beneath the sun, playing football. Diana is a seventeen-year-old senior at Pleasanton’s Amador Valley High School, and this is the annual “Powder Puff Game,” wherein senior girls play against the junior girls — hair twirled in pigtails, eye-black smeared across their cheekbones. And the guys? Well, they’re in drag, performing as cheerleaders.

After the game, which is really a fund-raiser and an exercise in school spirit, Diana and her pals chill at the sideline and start talking about the upcoming prom. Pretty soon, talk turns to a tan. As in, the tan.

Not just how to get one, but how to get a good one. A bronze one, an even one — one that’ll look awesome in the prom pictures.

Afterward, Diana explains the specifics of a solid tan job.

Can’t be too dark. “That’d look gross,” she says.

And it can’t be a rush job, leaving the seared glow of a lobster. “Looking burnt?” she asks. “Uh, no.”

And most of all, the tan won’t leave the dreaded strap marks, those white stripes of skin across the shoulders and hips that are usually protected by clothing, but in a slinky evening dress would serve to contrast the bronzed skin next to it.

“You don’t want a farmer’s tan,” Diana says.

And really, who does?

Diana knows the sun is a dangerous thing. In the past, she’s tried to harness it for her tanning needs, but it has proven too difficult to control and, ultimately, unforgivable. It has burned her skin and made it peel. This risk is especially unwanted now, just weeks before the prom.

Like most people, Diana also knows that sunburns are not only painful, but bad for her health, and can kick-start skin cancers, such as melanoma, which can lead to death if not diagnosed in time.

So it comes to her: Indoor tanning. Diana does a little research that includes talking to her friends and mom and surfing the Internet, and they all decide, okay, let’s give it a try. Plenty of girls at her school already do it. No one that she knows has ever gotten sick from it, she says. Maybe a couple girls have gone under the lamps too long and come out looking orange. But other than that, no biggie.

Diana finds a coupon for Tropical Solutions, an East Bay chain that offers unlimited tanning-bed visits for $38 a month. She breaks it down: If she goes two or three times a week, that’s only three or four bucks a visit. That’s doable.

So she drives to the Danville location, parks her car, talks to the person behind the counter, and discovers that since she’s seventeen, she’ll need a signed parental consent form. So she goes back home, gets her mom to sign it, and returns. Now she’s ready.

The place is airy and clean and smells of coconut lotion. It’s divided into a series of numbered booths with white doors, like the entrances to some sort of waterfront cabanas. Diana walks into a room featuring a chair, a long horizontal tanning bed opened up like a submarine sandwich, and a towel and squirt bottle for cleaning up the bed afterward.

She undresses, puts her clothes on the chair, and lies down on the plastic bed. Long white tubes above and below her will emit waves of ultraviolet radiation when she punches the start button. But first she reaches for a pair of tiny half-eggshell-shaped goggles that cover her eyelids. Unassuming as they look, the goggles are lined with retina shields that are as opaque and protective as a welder’s mask.

Then Diana places a little round sticker on her hip. The sticker is a sort of skin thermometer, allowing her to monitor the changing color of her flesh whenever she turns off the tanning bed to look at it. “If I’m getting too dark,” she says, “then I know to slow down.”

Diana goes in for twenty minutes, which some dermatologists say is comparable to an hour under the sun. But she believes her skin can absorb UV radiation rays better than most. She has burned only twice in her life, she adds, and she tans well. “My skin can take it,” she says confidently.

Soon, the white legs problem will be a thing of the past.

For the last part of her ritual, Diana reaches for a towel and puts it over her face.

“My mother worries that I’ll get wrinkles.”

Diana’s routine is not unique. Even here, in the health-conscious East Bay, industry watchers estimate that approximately thirty thousand people use indoor tanning beds regularly. A spokesman for the Indoor Tanning Association says that, outside the region known as the “Tanning Belt” — Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois — California is home to the second-largest concentration of salons in the United States. Tanning salons in the Golden State employ 8,500 people.

But Diana is a special kind of consumer. She belongs to a small chunk of the indoor tanning population — between 5 and 15 percent, depending on whom you talk to — that is in danger of losing its ability to tan indoors. Earlier this year, state Assemblyman Joe Nation (D-San Rafael) wrote a bill that would prohibit anyone under eighteen from patronizing a business like Tropical Solutions. This spring, the bill passed the state Assembly, and next week it goes for hearings before the Senate Appropriations Committee. If Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger eventually signs it, it’s hasta la vista, baby: Approximately three thousand East Bay teenagers will be yanked out of local tanning salons. According to the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, one in three American teenage girls said they had used a tanning bed at least once in 2003, up from one in five as recently as 1996.

Who are these girls, anyway?

“They’re the smart ones,” suggests Terry Broadbent, vice president of operations for Tropical Solutions. “They’re the ones who know the risk of the sun and know that if they come in here, in a safe and regulated business, they’re not going to fry themselves out there under the sun.”

Broadbent isn’t the only tanning industry official who sees his product as a healthy alternative to the sun. When the indoor tanning phenomenon caught on in the United States in the early 1980s, salons were viewed by outsiders as vapid cosmetic service stations, says Indoor Tanning Association spokesman Joe Levy. More than twenty years later, indoor tanning has blossomed into a $5 billion-a-year industry, and Levy says that for the educated consumer, vanity has taken a backseat to safety as a motive for using a tanning booth. Salons now promote themselves as places to get a “smart tan” or a “base tan.” Now, in an era in which most people understand that sunburns can lead to skin cancers later in life, the tanning association promotes its service as a sunburn solution: A clean, well-lighted place to tan.

“The number one thing we preach is how to protect yourself and not burn,” Levy says. “How to be moderate, like anything else in life, and how to get a base tan.”

The term “base tan” is the most contentious issue separating the Indoor Tanning Association and its archnemesis, the American Academy of Dermatology. Skin doctors consider the invention of the concept deceitful, created to give tanning salons a health-conscious hook for consumers. The tanning industry’s thinking goes like this: If you develop a light tan in a salon before you fly off for that Hawaiian vacation, then you’ll protect yourself from burning under the harsh and uncontrolled rays of the sun.

Levy says dermatologists who deny the base tan concept are living in the world-is-flat era. “They’ve created semantic deceptions,” he says of the academy. “They say the sun will give you cancer — and that’s a semantic deception. It’s like saying, ‘Exercise will damage your muscles.’ Of course exercise breaks down your muscles. But your body is meant to repair those muscles, and if you apply moderation, and live a healthy life, exercise is good for you. It’s the same with the sun and tanning. We’ve learned with moderation, it’s healthy for you.”

To bolster his argument, Levy refers to The UV Advantage, a controversial new book by Dr. Michael Holick, a professor of medicine, dermatology, physiology, and biophysics at Boston University. In May, Holick used his appearance at the Indoor Tanning Association’s annual conference to launch his manifesto that argues vitamin D, as provided naturally by the sun, is essential for good health. Holick says we have been misled by dermatologists and sunscreen-slingers to fear the sun.

Needless to say, Holick has become something of a patron saint for the Indoor Tanning Association. Levy posits that the doctor will be regarded five years from now the way that diet guru Dr. Atkins is today — as a pioneering thinker whose insights were wrongly mocked during his day. Holick’s main premise is simple: Brief and unfettered exposure to the sun allows your body to obtain the calcium it needs for bone strength and general health. He suggests unblocked sunshine on the face, hands, and feet for five to fifteen minutes per day. Currently, Holick estimates at least 42 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, thanks to a bogus anti-sun campaign that has only heated up in the last decade. He acknowledges that we can get plenty of vitamin D by drinking fortified milk or eating oily fish, but says absorbing the sun’s rays is the most holistic and efficient course.

Holick takes his sun worship even further, prescribing what he calls “sunshine therapy” to ward off ailments as varied as depression, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, and even some cancers. For instance, he argues that obesity can be treated with a steady dose of UV radiation that helps to strengthen weak bones and reinvigorate flabby muscle tissue.

Yet even Holick stops short of endorsing “tanning per se,” aware that radiation overdose is too risky to chance. But for anyone who remains determined to get a tan, he recommends starting with a base tan. “Increasing the melanin content in your skin by going to an indoor tanning facility will provide you with a certain amount of natural protection against a burn,” he writes. “Start increasing melanin content in your skin by visiting an indoor tanning facility at least one month before you leave, and have three sessions a week.”

Seventeen-year-old Micaela Williams has been visiting indoor tanning salons for two years — frequently enough that, in some circles, her use of the beds might earn her the nickname “tanorexic,” a pejorative used by high school kids who view indoor tanners as foolish to the point of self-harm. Williams has worked in salons, and says she tans about three times a week during the summer to maintain her bronze. Like most of her friends, the San Ramon resident is aware of the suggested link between tanning beds and melanoma. Yet what she truly fears is a sunburn.

“In a tanning salon, you’re in a controlled environment,” she says. “You know exactly what you’re getting.”

On each tanning bed, warning stickers tell the user that the government believes prolonged use of the machines can lead to skin damage. Tanning beds emit two kinds of ultraviolet radiation: UVA, which is most common, and UVB, which packs a greater dose of energy. According to the cigarette-pack-like warnings on the beds, “Tanning devices in salons, tanning parlors, spas, and similar settings that emit mostly UVA light are in no way less harmful alternatives to the sun’s rays, insofar as UVA rays penetrate deeper than UVB rays, causing damage to the underlying connective tissue as well as to the skin’s surface.”

Williams says that when she started using the beds at the age of fifteen, she took in dermatologists’ arguments and research provided by the tanning industry. She believes that other high-school-age patrons are just as aware, and shouldn’t be prevented from using the salons. “Once you’re that age, you can think for yourself,” she says. “You can read the paper and make your choices.”

To maintain her even tan, Williams alternates between less and more powerful tanning beds. At larger salons such as Tropical Solutions, a variety of wattages are available to the user. “Low beds” emit mostly UVA rays and are believed to penetrate further into the skin, while the more powerful “high beds” are heavier on the UVB rays and work on the surface. Tropical Solutions advertises the “Big Kahuna,” which it says should not be used for more than fifteen minutes per session because of the intensity of its “100 percent UVB rays.”

“The high beds bring out the color real fast, and the low beds keep it,” Williams explains. After tanning sessions, she lotions herself with a mineral-based cream to replenish the minerals her skin loses from sweating.

Recently, tanning lotions that color the skin have gained popularity with those who prefer not to use a tanning bed. The gels are gaining fame even in Hollywood, but the coloring agents haven’t persuaded Williams. “The lotion makes your skin turn orange,” she says, “and it’s gone in five days.”

Williams can’t say if she feels a boost in vitamin D after one of her visits. But for the teenager, the process of lying down and absorbing UV radiation for a quarter hour is a meditative one. “It’s relaxing,” she says, “like a nap in the middle of the day.”

Inside the East Bay Laser & Skin Care Center in Walnut Creek, the tattered victims of a silent war gather in the waiting room. Underneath their clothing, they’re marked and scarred. In some cases they have escaped death. They arrive to have their cancerous skin repaired or excised. Simply put, they’ve absorbed too much radiation.

Christine Min-Wei Lee, a dermatologic surgeon and the center’s director, knows the stats off the top of her head: In the United States, melanoma rates are steadily increasing by 3 percent every year, along with nonmelanoma skin cancers. Currently, one in 68 Americans risks developing invasive melanoma, which constitutes a 2000 percent increase since 1930. And not only will 7,500 people die from the well-known skin cancer this year, the profile of those who contract it is changing rapidly.

Once seen as an old man’s disease that afflicted fishermen or farmers, melanoma is now striking teenagers — and even preteens. “The youngest melanoma patient I have seen was twelve years old,” Lee says, “but I know of two cases of melanoma in the East Bay in children aged four and six years old.”

The examples are drastic, but they highlight another trend, Lee says. About one in four people with melanoma is now younger than forty, and the rate among young women is particularly alarming. Skin cancer is more common than any other kind of cancer among women 25 to 29 years old. “It’s the number one killer in women under the age of thirty,” she says.

A wealth of studies compiled by the American Academy of Dermatology back up Lee’s claims. The head-shaking thing about melanoma is that it’s such an easy cancer to avoid. So the idea of purposely tanning — whether under the sun or in a salon — strikes Lee and her colleagues as absurd. Since skin damage is cumulative, those who’ve sunburned as children are more at risk of contracting skin disease later in life, as they incur yet more sun exposure. In other words, tanning is a process of deeper and deeper skin and cell damage, until one day the affected DNA is so damaged, a cancer develops.

But Lee knows that the allure of looking like Britney can be more persuasive than any cautionary tales of possible future harm. “Peer pressure to tan can be intense,” she says of young women. “There’s a general societal and cultural view that tan skin looks healthier. … It’s unfortunate that Hollywood still has to maintain this image, although it’s fake, because it sends the wrong message to our youth that you must be tan to be hip. And the teens can’t tell that the stars’ tans are fake. So they flock out to the beach and the tanning salons in order to emulate their favorite stars.”

Blame it on Coco Chanel. According to tanning industry folklore, that influential fashion maven is credited with making a tan aesthetically desirable after arriving at a 1925 fashion show bronzed from a week’s vacation on the French Riviera. Before Chanel’s catwalk, leather-colored skin marked the working class. But her sense of couture said something else: The tan now belonged to the leisure class.

Once Hollywood movies began glamorizing ruddy cheeks, Americans officially craved the look. And after World War II, summer travel exploded in the United States, with beaches becoming a more popular destination for the nation’s increasingly mobile citizens. By the 1950s, Coppertone’s ad campaign included not just a scrappy dog and a freckle-faced, white-butted kid, but also some ham-fisted copy that suggested tans were desirable: “Don’t Be a Pale Face.” Until then, tanning and its effect on skin and health went largely unconsidered.

A tan is a radical change in the skin’s melanin content. Underneath your outer layer of skin, the epidermis, and just above your inner layer of skin, the dermis, you have a bed of cells called melanocytes. These cells produce melanin, and the more you have, the darker your skin. People who live near the equator generally have more melanin; Scandinavians, who get less sun, have much less. Likewise, when melanin absorbs ultraviolet radiation from either the sun or a tanning lamp, the result creates darker skin. According to skin doctors, any change in skin color denotes damage.

At the same time that dermatologists were beginning to learn about the sun’s harmful effects, an entire industry of suntan oils and beach products was constructed around the glory of bronzed skin. According to Smart Tan, a lobbying group, the annual tanning industry revenues now total about $20 billion.

When the first indoor tanning salons arrived in this country in the late 1970s, high on disco nights, hip-hugging shorts, and open vests, the existing tanning industry did not greet it warmly, recalls Jeff Nedelman, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association. He says the lotion companies were worried that their glory days had come to an end. He dubs these companies, along with the dermatologists he believes have demonized the sun, the “Skin Mafia.”

“For years, all these companies had been telling people, ‘If you go outside — any time you walk out your door — wear our product,'” Nedelman says. “Well, here comes this new thing, the solarium, and needless to say, they didn’t like it.”

Nedelman says ultraviolet radiation was first used commercially to aid people who suffered from seasonal depression. For a brief moment, he recalls, the health world actually embraced tanning salons. “As we all know, sunlight is the catalyst of life,” he says. “We need the sun to grow. We feel better when we get sun.”

Even with resistance from Nedelman’s “Skin Mafia” — which he believes is responsible for much of the restrictive legislation introduced across the country — indoor tanning continued to grow. The first major wave occurred in the late 1980s, followed by a sharp dip of closures with the first round of government regulation. The FDA imposed laws that limited beds to 100 degrees, required users to wear eye shields, and posted warning signs on the beds. Nedelman says the FDA rules filtered out the legitimate salon owners from the seedy joints that were actually bordellos and had besmirched the industry’s name. Looking back, he welcomes the regulations, and sees the industry’s compliance with federal guidelines as a mark of its legitimacy.

On the other hand, the dermatological and cancer communities have been angling for studies to prove that using tanning beds leads to melanoma, Nedelman says. Their motive, he reasons, is they’re at the mercy of suntan lotion makers for research grants and it’s too late to change course, even if the research proves them wrong. They’ve argued their case for so long, Nedelman maintains, that when someone like Holick comes along with new evidence, they’re too entrenched in their ways to see the light.

“This has become a witch hunt by the dermatology community,” Nedelman argues. “What Michael and the ITA is presenting is hearsay to them. If this were the Dark Ages, we’d be burned at the stake for saying the sun is good for you.”

Last October, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published an eight-year study that tracked 106,000 Scandinavian women and found that those who used tanning salons as little as once a month increased their chances of contracting skin cancer by 55 percent. Those odds increased further if they’d used the salons in early adulthood. Researchers found 187 cases of melanoma in their subjects; the women who had used tanning beds in their early twenties had a 150 percent higher risk rate than those who shunned the beds.

The study suggested that tanning bed exposure assisted melanoma.

Even more recently, in March, Australian scientists published a study on radiation from tanning booth bulbs, the main type used in tanning beds. Since UVA does not produce a sunburn, it had never been linked to skin cancer. Examining DNA from two types of skin cancer, researchers showed that UVA radiation had in fact penetrated the skin and damaged the basal layer, where new cells are made. Damaged DNA can lead to cancer.

Both of these studies, as well as several others, are dismissed by the Indoor Tanning Association’s Levy and Nedelman. They consider such research self-interested bile put forth by the suntan lotion industry and dermatologists who stand to make a financial gain as long as people fear the sun. After all, Levy complains, at the start of each summer skin doctors condemn the sun and then ask people to visit their office to have their skin checked at $150 a pop.

Levy worries that if California bans underage use of tanning salons, the state’s action will set a precedent that could sweep nationwide. Lobbyists from his association have killed similar bills in about six states in the past few years, but California’s may be the first to make it to a governor’s desk.

“If this legislation passes, it will send the wrong message to our children,” Levy says. “It will tell them that it’s okay to make laws that hurt small-business owners. It will tell them it’s okay to make laws based on bad science. If it passes, you’ve helped perpetuate the myth of the Skin Mafia.”

But with the mounting number of studies linking tanning salons to cell damage, members of Nedelman’s “Skin Mafia” such as dermatologist Lee are confounded why anyone would even allow them to remain open.

In a comparison used often by her peers, Lee likens salons to the destructive nature of cigarettes. Would we sell them to our kids if the tobacco industry promoted nicotine as having positive effects in moderate usage? “Going to a tanning salon is like paying someone to give you skin cancer and wrinkles,” she says.

One person whose exposure to cancer is more than casual is Terry Broadbent of Tropical Solutions. He is a sixty-year-old triathlete, trim and buffed. At his age, he’s proud to be as healthy as he is, and his deeply tanned skin is a tribute to his vigorous life outdoors.

Two years ago, Broadbent felt a rough and dark bump on his lower back: a mole gone awry. “I got it checked out right away,” he says. “I don’t let something like that go on; I care about my body.”

Broadbent’s swift action led to a complete removal of the mole and a full recovery. But, like many salon owners and Indoor Tanning Association members, he is suspicious of the dermatology community. And he isn’t convinced that his case of melanoma was the result of sun exposure, despite the studies that make just that argument.

Instead, Broadbent argues we live in an era of myriad carcinogens, many of them in our food and air. Consider, Broadbent rightly notes, that last year the US Department of Health and Human Services listed ultraviolet radiation from the sun as a “known human carcinogen.” Fearmongers, he says, are hijacking the discourse for their own political gains, which makes it difficult to ascertain the truth.

“I can’t say the sun caused it,” Broadbent says of his skin cancer. “It was a group of radical cells, that’s all I know. Could have been from the food I ate or the alcohol I drank or the secondhand smoke I’ve taken in.”

He laughs. “I did a lot in my day,” he explains. “Who knows what caused it? … I don’t fear melanoma like they want me to. If it comes, it comes. Meanwhile, I’m out living my life.”

If the proposed legislation passes, Broadbent could well have something to fear that he respects more than ultraviolet radiation. He says his daughter bought the first Tropical Solutions in 1991, shortly after the initial wave of government regulation, and back when indoor tanning salons struggled for a client base. Tropical Solutions was the first salon along the I-680 corridor, and, like most salons today, family-owned. Now it has a dozen competitors within a twenty-mile radius, including a Glo Tanning, the industry’s mini-version of Starbucks.

But if Governor Schwarzenegger signs the bill, business at Tropical Solutions and at the roughly 2,500 other salons statewide will change dramatically. “My guess: The guys who just got into the game will fold,” Broadbent says, “and the established ones, like us, will have to adjust prices.

“Most people think this is an easy business to run,” he says. “But it’s not. It’s a seasonal business, and you live and die with the seasons.”

Right now, the industry is enjoying its annual rush of late spring and early summer. Proms, graduations, and base tan seekers heading out for vacations make up the lion’s share of the seasonal rush. Broadbent’s estimates are high, but he says as many as one in five of his customers could be shut out by the legislation — and will then head for the beaches, where they’ll get burned even further.

Karen Graham spends a lot of time at the beach, but she definitely isn’t there to get a tan. If the Skin Mafia really exists, Graham, a middle-aged fireball who works out of a small office in a Hayward business park, is one of its Dons. One afternoon a few weeks ago, Graham had just returned from a weekend at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where she led a team of dermatologists on a “Mole Patrol.” They lined up sunbathers and scanned a parade of bared shoulders and stomachs. “Four probable melanomas,” she boasted. “They wouldn’t even have known.”

The following week, Graham was headed to New Orleans’ Jackson Square for another Mole Patrol, then across the Atlantic to England for an international conference on UV rays. Then it was briefly back home, and then on to Sacramento to testify in front of the state Senate, urging them to pass the tanning salon bill. “It should be a national bill,” she says. “I just hope it has some real teeth to keep the kids out.”

If it sounds as if Graham is possessed by a great passion to eradicate melanoma, that’s because she is. Her son, Billy, died in 1994 at age 21 from skin cancer and she made a promise to him: She’d beat this disease.

Billy’s death shocked even the dermatological community. “The doctors kept saying, ‘But he’s only 21!'” she recalls. “They hadn’t seen anything like it.” He led the typical outdoorsy teenage lifestyle, Graham says. He went around shirtless, riding his skateboard and dirt bikes around their Castro Valley home. He had a mole just over his left shoulder removed for aesthetic reasons when he was sixteen. “He didn’t like the way it looked,” his mom recalls with a small laugh.

When Billy was twenty, though, the mole returned. Since it was inflamed and bleeding, he returned to a dermatologist, who misdiagnosed it and sent him home. Six weeks later, Billy felt a lump in his armpit. Left untreated, melanoma retreats beneath the skin, and once it metastasizes, a patient’s life expectancy is typically between three and six months.

“He was on 2,500 milligrams of morphine,” Graham says of her son’s final days. “And it didn’t even touch the pain. He suffered tremendously.”

Even then, Graham was left in disbelief, stunned by the havoc caused by the sun. In a way, it still baffles her.

More unsettling is the notion that people actually go seeking UV rays for something as frivolous as a “look.” Melanoma, as anyone in the debate will tell you, is easily preventable. It’s a cancer that we can actually see on the outside, but in some weird way, we’ve dismissed it as: It’s only skin cancer. “I was guilty myself,” Graham says. “When I heard ‘melanoma,’ I said, ‘It’s just skin cancer, so get it removed.’ But it was too late.”

In 1996, Graham launched the Billy Foundation, not only to raise funds for research, but also to develop legislation. At the time, her effort was monumental: She was taking on the sun, slow-moving bureaucrats, and the entire tanning industry — both lotion makers and tanning salon owners.

Five years later state Senator Don Perata authored the first US law of its kind, requiring California schools to provide sun-protective hats for all students who want them (Australia has had a similar rule for a decade). In a later law, Graham persuaded the state to amend its education code to let schoolchildren apply sunscreen on campus without a doctor’s note. Now, she has found herself pulled into the tanning salon legislation debate, and has been asked to apply her legislative punch.

Graham is involved because she sees tanning salons as a sort of pusher for a culture that longs for bronzed skin. She is unimpressed by salon owners who say they’re providing a “safe tan.” Of course we need a small bit of sun, she says. But in her view, the salon owners are still peddling a product that advocates sun worship. Some days, she says, she parks her zebra-striped Mole Patrol van outside tanning salons just to plant a seed in the head of a potential customer.

“Here in the US, excess rules,” Graham says. “It is so American thinking to say, ‘If a little bit is good for me, then I need a whole lot more to feel even better.’ It’s quicker, it’s faster — who has time to lay out in the sun all day? — I can get it accomplished in a shorter amount of time. In order to look good in my shorts and bikini, I need to go to a tanning salon! And become bronze!”

After a few weeks at Tropical Solutions, Diana is impressed. “I definitely think tanning indoors is safer,” she says. “If I couldn’t go in there, where would I go? I’d lay out at the pool with my friends, and probably end up burning.”

She’s been accepted to UC Berkeley and will live on campus. She’s excited; it’s just a short drive through the tunnel for food raids and laundry drop-off. This winter, Diana says she’ll continue to indoor tan because she likes the way it looks. And she doesn’t want her legs and arms to return to that milky-white paste.

Oh, and the prom: It came, then went.

And the pictures? The ones she’ll look back on years from now, recalling the highlight of her youth?

“They turned out awesome,” she says.


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