As with other addictions, the compulsion to tan is not easily conquered. But there are ways to get help if you're hooked.
Step 1: Test yourself Stop tanning cold turkey and see what happens. If you experience withdrawal symptoms, like nausea and anxiety, you may be showing signs of compulsive tanning. Some research indicates the sun's ultra violet rays appear to create a feel-good chemical reaction in some people that's comparable with taking mind-altering drugs.
Step 2: Know the risks Know the risks. Absorbing UV rays -- whether from lying in a tanning bed or sunbathing -- increases your risk for developing all kinds of skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form. Sun damage also causes wrinkles, age spots, and sagging.
Step 3: Wean yourself Cut back on tanning gradually, substituting self-tanning lotions, sprays, and creams for sunbathing or salon bed tanning.
Step 4: Get evaluated If you're unable to wean yourself, have a psychiatric evaluation. Your obsession with tanning may be related to a mental condition called body dysmorphic disorder, an irrational preoccupation with minor or even imagined flaws in one's appearance.
TIP: One study found that 25 percent of its subject who had body dysmorphic disorder tanned regularly to hide their perceived imperfections.
Step 5: Consider therapy Consider cognitive behavioral therapy, a short-term form of psychotherapy that focuses on changing present-day behavior.
Step 6: Get a body screening See a dermatologist for a full body screening to check for precancerous lesions. Now go out and enjoy 10 minutes a day of sun exposure, the amount recommended to get your daily dose of vitamin D.
FACT: Many states restrict teenagers under 18 from using tanning beds without parental permission.