Tanorexia: Tanning Addiction Revealed

I know it’s a little weird that I would decide to write a post about tanorexia on a tanning lotion website, but this is a real issue tanners need to worry about. I love getting color and to this day continue to stay bronzed but tanning addiction is a serious problem we all need to be informed about.

Tanning AddictionI used to go tanning once a week and use my “Free Sundays” every other week. So in reality I would tan once a week and every other week, I would tan twice a week. I thought nothing of this and figured it was fine because real tanorexics tan everyday, right? Wrong! I would stay the full amount of time in every bed I went in and began to not realize how dark I actually was. I would think I was pale if I missed a routine session in the bed and I was far from that. I am not telling you to not tan, or go in tanning beds, but I am merely presenting an issue that has been brought up for quite some time now. There have been stories and jokes of people being “tanorexic” for a long time now, but all I did is take it as a joke or a poke at me enjoying tanning beds so much. I never really thought I had an issue.

Its been a while since I’ve used a tanning bed now, I mean it’s summer and I’d like to try and get some real rays while I can, but back to my point… I never thought I was too tan when I used tanning beds. I thought I was just the right color…but then again I’d feel significantly paler if I missed a session. I ruled out my anxieties to just being neurotic and wanting to keep my tan dark and not wanting to waste my money that I’d spent on a package of sessions at the salon. Now looking back at pictures of when I tanned that way I feel ridiculous. All the comments people made about my dark tan were completely justified. I looked a completely different race. Now I mean no disrespect when I say that, but generally you don’t want to take it that far. If you want a tan you want it to be golden, glowing, fun and vibrant; not something over-the-top. When I look at these pictures I am embarrassed and cant believe I didn’t see how dark I was. My tan clearly looked fake and although I looked rested and had a dark shade it was definitely too much. I should have noticed how dark I was but all I was concerned with was how to keep my color and not be pale. These are the red flags of tanning addiction.

Over and over we hear of this “Tanorexia” but do we really know anything about it? It is real? What does it entail? And how do we make others more aware of the tell tale signs of a problem arising? Well I recently read an article that cleared up a lot of confusion of whether this problem is real or a concoction of BS. It turns out tanorexia is real. It is a real problem people face when they feel they need to maintain their tans and get anxiety when they cannot. These individuals also get anxiety about becoming pale therefore fueling their obsession with tanning salons and bronzed skin. Anyone can be tanorexic. Tanorexia has some interesting symptoms, side effects and withdrawals signs as well.

Symptoms of tanorexia include all of the above I mentioned. Having a fear of becoming pale, having anxiety when you cannot tan, feeling as if you are not dark enough, feeling that skipping one session at the salon will cause your tan to fade significantly where you become pale and the number one symptom, tanning excessively.

Side effects of excessive tanning include skin cancer which millions of people get diagnosed with every year. Melanoma is the most common and most serious kind of skin cancer. It is important if you are tanning to go to a dermatologist to get your skin checked out regularly to make sure there are no problems arising. Abstinence is always the number one key but if you can’t abstain from the sun or the wonderful tanning beds then prevention is the next step. Frequent tanning can also cause skin to look splotchy and feel leathery. Skin can dry out easily, you can get rosy cheeks (that don’t necessarily go away because you have damaged a layer of your skin so you would need to treat it for months with creams), can cause wrinkles and fine lines and give you an overall older look.

Withdrawal symptoms sounds ridiculous…trust me I know…but realistically there are some and you should know them. When tanorexics cannot tan they may experience nausea, anxiety, nervousness, dizziness, and sometimes depression. Some people are happier when they are exposed to sunlight or UV rays and when you tan you reduce negative moods. When the tanorexic cannot tan they can experience the opposite effect. Tanning induces endorphins to go off in the brain and creates a euphoric feeling for the tanner therefore making it act as an addiction. If the individual cannot tan or “get their fix” they experience negative symptoms and they obsess over it until they can get what they want or do what they want (in this case tan).

I am by no means at all putting down tanning. I absolutely love it..both in the sun and in tanning beds. I am just proposing a serious issue which has been thrown around in the news and community. I want to make people aware that this hobby can become addictive and become an issue. It is important to know the signs of when tanning or anything else is becoming a problem so I feel it my duty as a supporter of the  industry and big fan myself to present these issues and facts. So don’t stop going to salons, just be aware that everything and anything can become a problem and when and if it does, you will know the signs and be one step ahead. Tanning is a wonderful thing. It lifts moods from the UV exposure, creates sexy tan bodies and makes us feel great about ourselves. There is nothing to hate or dislike about outdoor or indoor tanning…well except the dumb tax that was recently put on tanning salons…but that’s besides the point..that’s a whole other discussion…but tanning is fun and great. No one is asking you to stop doing it just be aware of what’s going on and how to tan safely. Tanning is addictive…and can we really blame it? It makes us look rested, chizzled and hot =)

36 comments... leave yours here.
  1. Angie says:

    Hello there. I am currently doing a power point presentation on this topic in particular for one of my classes and I was wondering if you came across any facts about tanorexia in the process. Thanks!

  2. Cristy says:

    I don’t know if I would consider myself a tanorexic, but I do have to say when I tan I just feel better. It puts me in a much better mood. I don’t like skipping days but if I do I don’t feel guilty or sad. Also I think that my skin complexion is just smoother and more even, I’m sure it has to do with not needing to wear foundation or cover up. Also my entire body is much smoother due to exfoliating more regularly, so yes I love to tan.

  3. sandy says:

    I don’t know either if i’m a tanorexic but I love to tan. I feel better. I get a lot of compliments. I get real dark. I go almost every day they are open. If I miss I feel bad, like I’m going to get pale real quick if I don’t go every day. I love the heat laying there just relaxing. I feel good about myself. I love to go tanning.

  4. Kortni :) says:

    I don’t think that I would consider myself tanorexic, but I do LOVE to tan! I don’t tan all year round like some people I know do. I just like to get my tan started before summer time so I am not white in my bathing suit. I get a lot of compliments on my tan and it definitely makes me feel so much better about myself to have such a glow to me 🙂 I go 6 days a week for about 3 months to get a really nice tan until its warm enough to lay out. Once I can lay out I don’t use the tanning beds anymore. It’s always nice to have a golden tan!

  5. Jean says:

    I would definitely consider myself tanorexic. I have been tanning now for 4 years straight and going year round. I find that I always feel like I’m not tan enough and if I don’t go for a couple days I feel like I’m not at all tan and have to get back. I love going and feeling the warmth of the lights. It makes me feel better about myself to be tan. I have heard it’s not good for you but I don’t think I will be able to stop. So yes I would definitely say I am 100% a tanorexic.

  6. Amy says:

    I would consider myself tanorexic. I do not tan year round but that is only because lack of funds prevent me from doing so. I tan avidly for seven months out of the year, both indoors and out. I can never seem to get dark enough. The warmer months of the year are my favorite times of the year. This year, I even laid outside on the last day of February because it was warm enough. I use the hottest tingle lotions I can find indoors and out and absolutely love them! The hotter the better. I’m definitely hooked to the whole tanning process.

  7. mystery tanner says:

    I don’t no if I’m a tanorexic. A lot of people think I am tho. I tan everyday maybe somethings twice .all year around. I love tanning on the beach all day then going right to the tanning salon. The results are awesome . It makes me feel soooo great and happy and like a different person. Now that I think of it I’m a tanorexic. I hate to be pale . I like to be sooooo tan everydayyy ughhh its like my druggg. I’m going tanning right now. beachh bummmm…peacee

  8. Moderation says:

    I know a couple of people who are addicted to tanning. In my opinion, indoor tanning should be used carefully and moderately. Sure, it feels good to get a head start on summer tanning, but there comes a point when it doesn’t even look good. If you tan too much, everyone can tell its fake, and doesn’t that ruin the whole point? I go tanning at the beginning of summer to boost my confidence, get a base tan, and so I’m not all pasty and pale when its time to hit the beach for the first time. Sometimes I go for random tans in the winter just to feel the warmth and light. In my opinion, that’s what indoor tanning should be for. Not to become all leathery. So to all the tanorexics: It looks nicer if its natural looking, don’t go overboard.

  9. Miss says:

    Could Tanorexia become the new Anorexia? We not only live in a society that is concerned with our weight but now one that is concerned about who has the best tan. Personally, I have fair skin and I like to tan so I don’t blind people with my skin in the summer time. Indoor tanning also helps me build up my melanin so I don’t burn as easily in the summer time. I definitely believe that the “Happy chemicals” our brain produces when we tan does makes people more susceptible to tanorexia but I can’t help to blame society a bit for it too. I go to college with a class of mostly girls where we compare how easily or hard each other tans. There is often a lot of envy for the girls who can tan the fastest. There is also the comparison of who can get darkest with the least amount of tanning sessions. What fair skinned person hasn’t wished that they could have a visible tan after their first tanning session? I have gotten comments from people after I say that I’ve started going to the tanning salon saying “oh you’ve done 5 times, this is my skin after 2 times.” In the end I see it becoming a competition that is just adding to the tanning obsession in our minds. Tanning should be done for your own self satisfaction and not to keep up with others who tan at all different speeds.

  10. kimi dozier says:

    oh yes tanning is my new addiction. i love everything about the whole tanning world. i love the smell of all the different lotions. i love bronzers, i love, well i adore the tingle effect. the hotter the better. i love the heat in the beds, i love to sweat. i love the heat i feel on my skin. i love to take my clothes off, just being naked with the aroma of yummy lotions smell, i believe just may be a turn on for me, ok yes oh yes i love to tan. i am addicted and do not want to stop.

  11. Tiffany H says:

    I was one of the ones that thought u could not get addicted to tanning. Well guess again. In 07 I was getting married and decided to start tanning early so I wouldn’t have to tan so much. Well I started laying six days a week and since they were closed on Sunday I was unable to lay. I felt like I was losing my tan when I didn’t get to lay. If I was able I would have layed more than once a day. But of course ur not supposed too. U have to be really careful

  12. Molly says:

    I knew the first time that I went tanning that it was going to become my new hobby. I started when i turned 14 and was about ready to graduate grade school. Trying to look my best in graduation clothes, I needed that sunkissed glow. Ever since then I have been a tan-obsessed girl. I am now a sophomore in college and I don’t hesitate to say that tanning was a great choice. I feel so much better being tan-skinned and feel healthier and happier. When winter strikes and the snow takes over the green grass, I know its time to return to the tanning bed daily. Usually, I will go to the salon 3-4 days a week throughout the months that aren’t primarily good weather for laying out. Tanning is an addictive status that makes me feel great. The smell of bronzers, the feel of being bronze, and the way clothes look on a well-tanned body just makes me love it even more. When I am stressed, the tanning bed is perfect. When I am cold, it gives me the ultimate warmth. When I am tired, it provides a nap-time. Special occasion such as a wedding, family photo, or formal?? I am right there at the salon daily. I get nothing but compliments on the tan, which boosts my confidence and just makes me crave tanning more!

  13. Skylar C. says:

    I’ve never struggled with tanorexia, but I had a friend that did. She went to the tanning bed almost everyday. And like the article she didn’t look like her original race. She looked almost mutated. When she didn’t get her daily dose of tanning she was impossible to be around. She was fussy and complained about everything. She was soooo grouchy. And even though it was only a day she seemed to go through withdrawal symptoms. It got so serious her parents limited her to only once a week. After that the withdrawal symptoms really started coming. Now, almost 2 years later, she is doing so much better. It’s almost like she got a tanning intervention. 🙂

  14. MandyG says:

    I seriuosly cannot go a day without tanning. I feel literally sick if I cannot go. When I get in the bed and put on lotion, it’s like a high to me. I try all kinds of tanning places to get deals or free tans. My family thinks I’m crazy. They told me I need to talk to a therapist about this. They also said I’m going to die of skin cancer and always put me down. Or they tell me I’m too dark, why go tanning. I feel like if I miss one day, I will lose my tan. I can’t wait till summer comes around every year, so I can lay out and tan all day. Il go use a bed in the morning then lay by the pool for hours. My skin is not leathery like people would think. I use lots of moisturizers. I always google ways to get tanner and watch YouTube videos. I’m happy with my life and tanning is my business. If I die of cancer then that’s my problem. As long as I’m happy that’s all that matters. I’m not the only one out there. I’m almost to the point in the winter time to go to two salons and tan. But I saw that girl on strange addictions and she was doing that and it made her back bleed one time from being soo dry. And it made her hands look really old.

  15. Honey says:

    Ok kiddies – I am the Granny Tanny here – 56 years old. Have been tanning for many years and just love it. Kept up with almost every lotion on the market and have tried hundreds of them too! Haven’t tanned now in about 3 years, and the market for lotions is all over the place, as are the prices. I am running back as soon as I can, and in no time will know every in and out of every brand made, as it is what I like to do. Maybe I can get a senior discount when I go back this time – do you think??? It is addictive but so what – is all I have to say. I believe people who consistently tan are better aware of their skin. If you do what you are suppose to – use all the right things – I personally feel the good you get from it outweighs the bad. There is nothing more beautiful looking than a bronzed healthy glow. When you feel good about the way you look – the world feels your glow. Tanning for me is my passion of yesterday, today and tomorrow! Happy Tanning Tanners

  16. wiser about being bronze says:

    I’ve been tanning for about 10 years now, i grew up in a “hick” little country town and after high school moved to the city and was shown a whole new lifestyle. I started tanning and within 2 months had 4 different tanning memberships and used at least 2 everyday (some days i would go to all 4) now i moved back to my home town and am ironically a tanning consultant. I’ve taken classes and read books about tanning now that i understand it more and realize how much damage I did to my skin by tanning multiple times a day. Now i teach people about skin care and do my best to educate them, and still i see girls that assume they know what they are doing, and try to tan at places all over town it’s sad really, because they’re hurting themselves to fulfill the need to be tan to be accepted by peers.

  17. Ulyana says:

    I absolutely love tanning. If I had enough money to go tanning year round, I probably would. In the past two months (when I started going to the tanning salon again) i went from being one of the palest to one of the darkest of the people I know. Now, even though I am dark, I do not think that I’m dark enough. I always want to go tanning more, and get more color. I also share the same anxiety about becoming pale from missing a tanning session. I think I am addicted to going tanning, but I also think that I will be able to break the cycle when i have to. Especially now that it’s summer, I don’t plan on going to the salon a lot, maybe once or twice. But, when fall and winter come… my addiction will most likely reappear.

  18. miranda says:

    i would say i am tanorexic!! i have been tanning since the age of 13, i’m now 29 and i have went and bought a tanning bed, and of course a spray tanner because there are days i miss getting in my tanning bed and i feel like straight crap!! i feel so much better and prettier when i tan everyday and this is a problem for me and many others! but i will continue to tan everyday because i love to be tan and hate looking pale!

  19. Annizle says:

    I go tanning everyday even though my dad had skin cancer. Now that’s tanorexia…I started at age 15…I’m almost 20 now. I don’t feel like I’m getting darker!!! If I miss a day of tanning I feel like my best friend is going to be darker than me. Why don’t the have tanaholics annomoyous?!? I love trying all the different lotions too:) I love boroque!!!

  20. Laura D says:

    I had a friend who had tanorexia she would sign up at two different tanning salons so she could get darker, she would also lay out in the sun she was highly addicted to tanning if she didn’t have the money to get her two unlimited monthly packages she would find a way to get in. Tanning is ok to a certain extent but not when go as overboard as she did… I don’t think that people under the age of 18 should be able to lay in the tanning bed because even with a parents consent the teenager doesn’t fully understand the effects of skin cancer although they are able to comprehend they are not fully able to know the effects it can have on your life especially if you get addicted to it all the money that goes in to it and the high risk of getting cancer.

  21. Courtney C. says:

    I can definitely relate to this post. I totally understand the anxieties that you would feel when you missed a session I do the same thing I start to stare myself down and think “wow you’re really pale you’ve messed up all the tanning that you have done and paid for because you missed a session.” I even think about who I am gonna get to watch my child so I can go tan, what if I can’t get a sitter. Bottom line I love the way I look and I love the way feel when I get out of the tanning bed and I love the way people look at me and when the say wow your dark. So therefore I don’t think I will be quitting the tanning anytime soon.

  22. b. reid says:

    U hit the nail on the head with these comments bout tanning. I 2 have a few of these symptoms, main one being i never seem dark enough 2 myself. Oh well lot worse things i could be addicted 2 i guess, thanks for the info!

  23. pattycakes says:

    I got a friend that tans some time two times a day, i think she is addicted, her skin is very light when she tans she turn red, the next day she looks like she never tanned. That don’t stop her she will do it every day. Yes i think that you can be addicted to tanning beds, she definitely is. She looks like a old woman and she is just 34 years old. She will tan all year round.

  24. LindaTee says:

    I have to go tanning at least twice a week or I start to feel pale. For some reason I just love when people compliment my tan and my self confidence goes up so much higher when I’m a deep tan. I started tanning two winters ago when I was at my whitest and now I can definitely never go back to that! If it was a little cheaper I’d go everyday because I just absolutely love to tan.

  25. Shannon says:

    I can relate to this, when I was laying in the tanning bed a few years ago I basically got to where I was laying everyday, and I found the word “Tanorexia” on a tanning forum I am a member of and I was like “Oh Gosh that is what I am”. I felt like I could never just get “dark enough” even tho people would comment on my color ALL the time. Now I have moved to outdoor tanning and yes I basically lay outside everyday, my color is looking great, but if I miss a day or 2 I feel like I am losing all my color and stress about when I can lay out again. I love how the sun makes my skin look so much healthier, I look so much more alive, and am more comfortable in my own skin being tan. Im a bit of a tanning addict I will admit.

  26. Markita says:

    Okay so first off I have been tanning in the tanning bed for about 15 years. I first layed when I was 12, now I am 27. I have always loved to tan and the only time I ever have taken a break from it has been the 3 times I managed to have children. I realized I was addicted to tanning about 5 years ago. I went everydayd except Saturday and Sunday. I would love to own my own tanning bed at home. I have never heard of the word tanorexia until now, I would suppose you could say I have it. Tanning males your body pretty and it gives you self confidence. If I miss too many days I throw hissy fits like a child but it is because it don’t take long to lose it.. when I do I go nuts…

  27. Ali Cheeks says:

    My name is Ali and I am addicted to tanning. Without this site I would still be addicted. Send lotion to my house in Quartar, Iraq please.

  28. Miami Glow says:

    So I don’t have an addiction to tanning, BUT a close friend DOES! I live in Miami, Florida, the capital of flawless tans all year long (since we can still enjoy the beach in winter). But my friend doesnt tan easily in the sun at all. So she goes to the tanning salon EVERY WEEK! She even goes as far as to wear her bathing suit top in the bed so that it looks like she’s been to the beach, but in reality she’s not fooling anyone. Aside from looking like an oompa-loompa all year long, she’s causing a tremendous threat to her body by putting herself under those rays for so long, and so frequently. I really hope people realize that while yes, being tanned is very sexy, there’s no need to go this far. The best tans are the subtle ones.

  29. MissJenniferAnn2011 says:

    I must say, that I have found myself to actually be a little bit of a tanorexic. I even keep track of the days that I have and have not tanned throughout the year. I also, however, do work at a local tanning salon so being in that atmosphere probably doesn’t help but I LOVE my job (more than tanning itself probably). I know that i am happier when i have tanned and it almost always improves my mood instantly. Do what makes you happy…TAN!!

  30. Kris says:

    Wow! I see how peolpe could feel this way and even have some friends who are highly addicted. I tanned for a few months when I was a teen for a family wedding and it was okay. But recently I returned to tanning, for yet another family wedding, and just because I have always been so pale and cannot tan in the sun. I just burn horribly! I have been for less than 5 sessions and already I myself have made the comment that I feel addicted!! To me just being away from all the stress of daily life, even for just 10 minutes, is so relaxing. After my sessions I feel great and I have noticed that even with the slightest change in the color of my skin I feel so much more confident in my own skin. Crazy huh? I also feel like I should go as frequently as I can so as to get my money’s worth. But I do not want to get “too dark.” I have already set limits on myself as to how often and how long I will go. I just hope that as my results continue to improve I can stick to my limits. 🙂

  31. Apryl says:

    I recently started tanning at a local salon and I love it!! I feel so much better about myself but not only that, I look better. So many people have said that I look good tan…I always love a compliment. also, it makes my teeth look whiter!! I am hoping to not turn into a tanorexic… my monthly package is up on july 6th and I haven’t decided if I want to continue or not… to be continued…

  32. Sharon says:

    I usually tan from April through August every year, going 3 to 4 times a week. It can be addicting. Right now I’m going twice a week and I feel like I should be going more often. I think I look much better with a tan and even a little thinner, which certainly doesn’t hurt. I do feel guilty if I don’t go tanning for a few days. My doctor tells me to stop, but I figure going just a couple times a week is not that bad. I find it to be relaxing also. I listen to my ipod and dance around while I tan. It’s fun and I love it!

  33. Deb says:

    I think I go through stages where I’m definitely tanorexic. Naturally my skin has an olive complexion but I feel like I could always be darker! Especially when I see people who are naturally more pale than me, be way more tan! My family and friends will comment on my tan and say I’m so dark but I just don’t feel that tan. I guess my problem is knowing that I can always be darker.

  34. beth says:

    I have a huge problem and its not with just tanning its also buying tanning lotion I’ve spent 2000.00 dollars on tanning lotion trying to see if I can get darker I just paid a 125.00 for my last bottle of lotion and its sucks its not as goos as my Ed hardy body shots. But I feel If I don’t lay everyday I will lose my tan I’m hooked on tanning. Its true

  35. Adam says:


    Reading these posts has really got me thinking. I love getting a tan but my complexion is somewhat fair. I usually get a burn early in the summer and then don’t get burnt after that. There was a girl I worked with who everyone, including her said was “tanorexic”. I can’t tan in a tanning bed as it gives me a burn but she would get a nice golden brown and a reddish “glow”. I always thought she looked healthy and was sort of envious of her tan. She did look older than she was as her skin was already starting to get a little leathery but she looked way healthier and therefore in my opinion, better than the other girls her age who stayed out of the sun. Most of the other guys thought she was too tan and therefore unattractive. Does this count me as tanorexic if I was wanting to be as tan as her?

  36. KNC says:

    I don’t have this issue but my mother does, she goes to tan everyday, here it is MARCH and she is so dark it is almost disgusting. I always tell her she is too dark and needs to back off. It hasn’t done any good and she still goes everyday, she is almost 60 and her skin is gonna look like a piece of leather if she doesn’t slow down. HOW can I help her????

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