The Scientist: Claudia Aguirre, Ph.D., a neuroscientist working in the skincare industry
But unlike addiction to heroin and other opiates, people are not losing their jobs or causing harm to others just to get a dose of sunshine. Frequent tanning, research shows, is similar in nature to being addicted to nicotine, and the underlying cause may be related to body dysmorphic disorder, a psychological disorder characterized by preoccupations with imagined or minor defects in one’s appearance. This could translate into sun-seeking behavior as a way to cope with negative self-image, which can then become a lifelong quest to never be pale again.
It’s possible that the urge to brown has adaptive roots: People need sun on their skin in order to make vitamin D. But there are ways to get D that don’t come with a significant risk of melanoma, like limiting your time in the sun without sunscreen to around 15 minutes a day (avoiding tanning beds altogether), and eating vitamin D-rich foods such as low-fat dairy and mushrooms.
READ MORE: Test Your Sun Saftey Knowlege