Coppertone, Baby

So, I’ve been tanning recently.  Never in my life thought I’d ever see the inside of a tanning booth (unless it was on TV, like that episode of Nip/Tuck), but I think I’m glad I changed my mind.

Backing up – work has been really bad of late.  And by “of late”, I mean all of 2012 so far.  I only had 41 hours in January, all of EIGHTEEN in February, and had stalled out around 40 in early March.  I’ve been hunting for a second job I could do part-time and getting absolutely nowhere.  Add in the weird weather and the fact that I still have a hard time with the short days and total lack of sun in the winter (coupled with how much less UV is in the sunshine even in the summer) and I was losing my mind.  I mean that fairly literally – I was one very short step up from suicidal a couple of weeks ago.  I was starting to wonder if tanning would help – it does boost vitamin D and serotonin levels and stuff, and it’s useful for Seasonal Affective Disorder (which is one component of my depression).  During the week that I was spinning so violently out of control, I happened to be discussing it with Diana, and out of the blue she turns to me and says “Okay, I know it’s horrible for your skin and you prefer natural things and such, but have you ever thought about tanning?  I think it might help…”.  Kind of blew my mind, having this come totally out of the blue (I hadn’t told ANYONE I was pondering tanning).

So I started looking around at different salons.  Attempted to google, first, and discovered that NOT ONE SINGLE TANNING SALON will EVER put their prices online.  It’s bizarre.  And there is a HUGE range in prices – and in pricing structures.  So I started schlepping around to see what I could find.  First place I went is literally around the corner from me, $38/month unlimited tanning… but is basically a nail salon with a few tanning beds.  I wasn’t super confident that they really knew much about tanning.  And heaven knows that I don’t, so I really need them to!  Still, gave me a baseline price to refer to.  Went to Islands Tanning next – and learned more about the “typical” pricing structures.  Different prices for the different beds, different prices based on how long of a contract you sign up for, and a high-pressure sell. *sigh*  And he didn’t listen to me AT ALL.  I made it clear from the start that I was looking into this as a way to help combat my SAD and boost my vitamin D and such, NOT for color or “spa time”.  He tried very hard to sell me on the other amenities (hydro massage bed, sauna thingy, infared bed, this hot body wrap thing to help you lose weight, etc).  And he tried even harder to push me into the higher-priced plans (of course) by going on and on about how the high-pressure lamps give you more color, and faster, than the basic bed.  Um, hi, what part of “I don’t care about color” are you not getting?  *sigh*  When he finally got that I DON’T HAVE THE MONEY, he started trying to push me into a longer-term contract instead.  Which I kind of get, because the longer the term, the lower the monthly payment.  When he found out that I was looking at the place that charged $38/month, he undercut them.  Took the plan (which should have been $49/month) down to $30, which I loved – but for 18 months.  I can’t guarantee 18 months of enough hours to pay an extra $30/month.  You can freeze your account – but that doesn’t stop the payment.  Just that you can’t tan during that time, and the time is tacked onto the end of your plan, so you don’t lose out if you can’t tan, or just don’t want to, for a chunk of time. 

The cool thing is that he did give me a short free session.  I’m glad it was short – it was in one of the beds with stronger lamps and I have NO pigmentation at this point in time (and there are parts of my body that have NEVER seen the sun).  Also, I’d applied my body butter that morning – which I’m thinking is a no-no when it comes to tanning.  Because, you know, oils…  They intensify such things.  I didn’t burn, not even close, but my skin did get that kind of tight and tingly feeling you get when you got just a little too much sun.

Aside from the physical though – holy CRAP it felt good.  Physically too – it was a little too warm, and I don’t usually respond well to being too warm, but it felt so amazing on my skin.  And *I* felt better after.  Could be placebo, but I find it unlikely since I did not expect to see any emotional results for about 2 weeks.  But I found myself feeling more like, well, myself – able to have some hope, able to put things in better perspective, more giggly, more positive, not suicidal…  Good stuff.  It was amusing, though, coming out of the salon into the snowfall.  My body was very confused – “Wait, weren’t we just at the beach?  And now it’s snowing?  WTF?” Went to dance on Thursday night – don’t usually go to that class (being on call and all), but it was the last time Diana was teaching until after spring break (she left early), so I wanted to see her and do the dance we’ve been learning (which is super awesome) and stuff. She starts out her warm ups with “Alive Again”, and I found myself laughing a bit inside. Feeling alive again, in very deed. I hadn’t realized how much it was affecting me, to still be so down during dance class, when I’m used to dance being what pulls me out of that state. Being there and NOT feeling like I was drowning… it was huge.

Since I got the free session, I figured I’d wait on exploring other salons until a day or two later, just in case I got any more free sessions. 😉  Heard there was a labor on Thursday, so didn’t go anywhere, plus wanted to give my skin time to heal.  Went out Friday (after using lotion instead of body butter, lol) and checked out Tan Republic.  You don’t *have* to be on a contract with them – but holy crap, if you’re not it’s nearly EIGHTY BUCKS a month for the most basic bed.  Longer contracts of course give you cheaper monthly fees, never went below $49 – and again, I DON’T want a contract.  I want control of what months I go and what months I don’t, since I don’t plan for this to be all the time, just in the winter.  Less of a high pressure sell there, but still focusing on how the higher quality beds give the most color – and again, I don’t care about color.  Nice place, but way too pricey for little me.

At that point, I was starting to think I should just go with the place around the corner, because they were all going to require contracts and stuff, but figured I’d keep going – I had one more to check out seriously, plus a coupon for some free tanning at another that I was sure would be too pricey, but hey, can’t beat free.  Last serious stop was SunsUp – and I am so glad I didn’t skip them.  They do a “membership” instead of a contract – per month fee like the place around the corner, but it renews automatically.  You can freeze it ($5 fee) if you don’t want to tan that month, or cancel any time (no cancelation fee) with a written request.  By far the cheapest, only $22/month for unlimited in the basic bed, and I was far more impressed with their knowledge and such than the first place.

Best of all?  The gal at this place LISTENED TO ME.  Once I mentioned SAD and vtiamin D and stuff, she flat-out told me that the higher price beds won’t make ANY difference for that kind of use, so she was only going to talk about the basic beds with me unless I wanted to know about the others (which I didn’t).  Gave me a very low-pressure pitch, and also offered me a free session.  This one was a bit longer, but my skin didn’t mind it – probably because a) lower power lamps, and b) no oil on my skin.  Still felt AMAZING.  At that point, I didn’t even bother going to the last place – it’s further than I’d want to drive anyway, and based on their name and website and stuff, seemed safe to assume they would be more expensive.

She was of course talking up their lotions as we got my account set up – but again, once I told her that I couldn’t afford it, she stopped.  Never any high pressure sales from her.  I have a friend who also has an account with SunsUp and she’s had the same experiences, at an entirely different branch.  They’re just a nice, laid-back place.  They’re open 7 days, while a couple of the others are closed on Sundays.  Being on call on Thursday and Saturday, i love the idea of tanning on Sundays, it’s very relaxing.  They bill on the 15th, which is so much better with my pay structure anyway, so I got this month pro-rated.  You have to buy goggles, they don’t provide them (though I got some disposables for my free session, of course), but that’s a one-time thing – still cheaper to pay $22/month plus a one-time $6 than $38/month with goggles provided.  Plus I don’t have to worry about how well they’ve sanitized them.

Still feeling more like myself after yesterday’s session.  Looking forward to going back tomorrow.  Planning on every other day for the time being, until I’m a little closer to functional.  Figure I’ll go regularly through April and then see how I feel.  Don’t plan on going in the summer, especially if I can actually *gasp* get myself outside to do some reading in the sun, but then pick it up again in the winter and see if I can stave off the worst of this.  Thing is, looking back, I have been having just a little harder time every winter.

I’ve been reading about Vitamin D today.  It regulates so many things, several of which (inflammatory conditions, asthma, blood pressure, weight gain) have been slowly getting worse since I’ve been up here.  Makes me suspicious.  I wish I could get my levels checked now, before I’ve really gotten started, then compare them in a month or so, just for my own curiosity.  I wonder how low I’ve gotten.  It would be really nice if I could get off of my inhalers again.  It does seem suspicious that Vitamin D has been implicated in asthma, and my asthma has been sub-clinical up until now, when I’ve been up here for 7 years – maybe it took that long for it to make a difference.  I’m sure there are a ton of other factors too, so who knows if anything will really change, but it will be interesting to find out.  For now, it will be enough to not be in such total despair and on the brink of suicidal ideation.

And yeah, it would be nice to get SOME color.  Even if that isn’t the primary goal. 😉 (especially in my legs – it’s to the point where I’ll shave them and it won’t even look like I did because the skin is so pale and the hairs are so dark that the hair below the skin surface looks like unshaven stubble)  I never knew I was *this* white – living in California, I always carried a bit of a base tan, even when I thought I was all winter-pale.  Had to stop using my foundation, even before I got into more natural things and less makeup-happy, because my skin got several shades paler.  It’s WEIRD.

Memo to self, need to get some more lotion.  Haven’t bought any in ages, since I’ve been making body butter and such, but no oils in the tanning beds (it’s bad for the acrylic surface too).  But not dropping another $60-80 just on a small bottle of lotion there – gonna get something cheap at Rite-Aid. 😉

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