November 20, 2017

Another Bedlam Moment: Tanning Mishaps


There’s something magical that happens in our backyard when the sun starts peeking through the trees, and that’s just what our 13 year old daughter thought this past week too.

Our 30 degree rain and frost crazed days scrambled all the way up to 65, and she immediately donned her shorts and tank top, grabbed a blanket and announced it was definitely hot enough to lay out right back there on our sand volley ball court. (I’m dreaming of the green trees, but they haven’t even started to bud yet, silly winter weather.)

Her die hard approach to garnering some natural Vitamin D through the age old love of “tanning” kicked me into mother mode.

“Honestly, honey, it’s too cold to lay out. Even when it’s chilly, you can really burn. Sometimes the most damage occurs when we don’t feel it. Don’t stay out too long. “

I chuckled as she snuggled down and found her spot in the sand. My husband is hard core about skin damage, so he’s very insistent about sun screen, yet no matter how often I remind our children of the dangers of our hot NC sun, until they learn that one hard life lesson, it won’t sink in.

Unfortunately, she is her mother’s daughter, and my hard tanning life lesson came in the form of sheer bedlam. The kind of bedlam that I created by choice.

Remember the letter I wrote last year to my 16 year old self? (It’s a good one, and the comments are even better.) Well, I really should have warned that teenage self of mine just what my disobedience would cost me in only a few months.

Growing up in Wisconsin, autumns bore frost and winters bred insanity for those that love the outdoors. What seemed like too many months out of the year, we holed up in our homes because of the freezing temps – brrr – way too cold to play outside. When wind chills dip below zero, the only “sun” to be found is in the form of tanning bulbs, which my parents strictly forbid., and at that time self tanners left you carrot orange with self tanning lines that told every one you were trying way too hard.

Once the sun started poking through those WI clouds in April, my friends and I would slather baby oil on our bodies, grab our silver reflecting tanning mat and attempt to maneuver the cold winds just for a glimmer of a tan. Oh, how I wish we had other options like the new Jergens Natural Glow moisturizers, but alas, this was our only hope.

Now, for the most part, I was one of those “good girls.” I obeyed my parents on the big issues, but when this pale, pasty skin needed a dramatic make over, a friend offered her ginormous tanning bulb, and of course, I obliged. You all, I didn’t even know they made such things, and I am pretty sure that the FDA has banned them by now, but it was one of those industrial light bulbs for the expressed purpose of giving yourself a “healthy glow.” Oh, how I wish I had a picture to show you.

What WAS I thinking?

If there were directions on the side of the box, I didn’t read them, and if I had, I’m sure it didn’t state, “Put your face as close to the bulb as possible to hurry the tanning process along because if your parents poke their head in your room, you’re in big trouble.”

Yep, pretty sure their marketing guy would have tossed those directions in the waste basket, but I thought it was a darn good idea. I mean, it made sense to me that I should get a little closer, thus taking less time for that glow to appear, right?

For sure! That glow appeared alright. Thrilled I was. Within ten minutes, the color was coming back to my face. I had a healthy glow and my cheeks were quite pink.

“Sun kissed”, I thought. “This bulb is a Wisconsin sun miracle worker. Yes, the skin right under my eyes is a bit tender to the touch, but that happens even when I am in the sun too much. I’ll just get a good night sleep and all will be well in the morning.

I shut the bulb off, put it back in the box and slid it under my bed, safely out of sight.
Within an hour, I knew I was in deep trouble. My eyes began to burn, and my entire face hurt. I grabbed a cold rag and lay it across my face. My conscience pricked and I knew that my parents’ warning had my best intentions at heart.

I’m pretty sure I lay in bed praying, “Lord, please, pretty please, let this go away by morning. I am so sorry. I will never do something so stupid again.”

As I tossed and turned throughout the night, it wasn’t getting better. In fact, I knew without looking, this was bad. I continued to keep the washcloth over my face, and when my school alarm went off, I could barely open my eyes. They were swollen shut. Blisters covered both cheek bones and I looked like the Elephant Man’s main squeeze.

Since we typically started our morning off with personal devotions, I laid down on the coach. Teenagers are known to lie down early in the morning, but I knew if my dad found out, I would so hear about it. He entered the room, saw me lying down with the washcloth across my entire face, and questioned the situation.
Yes, I admit. I stretched the truth just a bit.

“I have a really bad headache.(Oh yes, I did, that was true.) I’m praying.”

Oh ladies, how could I?

PRAYING? That’s my excuse? Yep, I tried to pass off my disobedience as a spiritual act. Good thing lighting didn’t strike right there.

I chuckle about it now. As a mother of four teens, they think they are SO smart. Sometimes my boys assume I am this dumb blond who just fell off the turnip truck. They look at me with this completely straight face and give me the most ridiculous excuse in the world and they think I will fall for it.

REALLY? Do they not know that I know you are lying?

I often state teens think they are “so wise in their own eyes,” but as I think back, that’s exactly what I thought as well.

I mean, good girls do pray.   🙂

My dad didn’t fall for it. He knew something was up. He walked over, grabbed the washcloth, looked at my swollen face and gasped.

I don’t quite remember what happened next. I do know that I didn’t go to school that day. I vividly remember they made me go to school the next day, even though I begged to stay home. Yes, vanity holds its own set of natural consequences. They gave me exactly what I wanted.

Decades later, I still bare the results of that choice. That blistered 16 year old skin is still hyper sensitive to sun. I can be out for an hour and it will get bright pink. Now, it always tans by the next day, but that skin damage never corrected itself.

I’ve told that story to my children because they all love a healthy, tanned glow. They can’t believe I was that dumb, but on those days when they fry themselves at the beach, after being reminded and reminded about wearing sun screen, I raise my eyebrows and give them THAT look. You know the one. More importantly THEY know the one.

SO please tell me I am not the only crazy one that has had a tanning bedlam moment.

I know my nieces tried the professional spray tan and when they walked in the house, we all started laughing. There have to be others out there that wanted that natural “glow.”

Share your bedlam moment (and be entered to win a $250 gift card.)

Since I am in Dallas right now for a conference, I was able to try the Jergens Natural Glow over the last few days and I love it. My legs have gone from pasty to a great subtle color and nothing smears or smells. Two important factors for me. I’m going to use it on and off over the next few months and I’ll let you know how it goes.

This post is written by me on behalf of Jergens, but all dumb tanning decisions are my own.


  1. I am 1/8 Native American and grew up in Phoenix, AZ. Needless to say, I had a permanent tan year round, never experienced a sun burn… until we moved to VA. I guess the added hormones from puberty paired with a lot less sun exposure made me more prone to them? I have never been one to lay out, ever. It’s not at all relaxing to me. I do hang out with people that do though. One time in middle school I went with my parents to FL for spring break to meet up with my mom’s childhood friend. We were all hanging out on the beach enjoying the beautiful breezy weather. I was sitting with my arms around my legs b/c it was actually a touch cool at times. After we got back to the house I felt my first ever sun burn starting – but only on the left side of m body b/c I never changed positions. By evening the tops of my feet were so crispy I couldn’t wear shoes. Ouch!

    The funniest “tanning” moment came as a child. I am my dad’s fifth child, but my om’s only (where I get the NA genes). My siblings inherited my dad’s pale French Canadian features. We used to vacation in Mexico when I was little for weeks at a time which left my quit dark. One year on our way back across the border they wouldn’t let me through! Not only did I look totally different from my pale skinned, green eyed siblings… I was also wearing a Mexican peasant dress one of the locals had given me for my bday. They thought my parents were trying to smuggle me across the border!! Of course, what does a young child do at this critical point? Totally clam up. My parents had to prove I spoke English before they would let us go. Nothing. Not a word.Then my mom threatened to leave me there which prompted me to yell “Nooooo!” – then they lets us go 🙂


  2. Michele Laramay says:

    NO bedlam moments here. I am a freak about sunscreen, because I am a big baby when I burn. and I burn easily.


  3. Oh boy.. I never saw those lights.. I doubt I would have bothered with them cuz I grew up in the sub-tropics of South Texas.. and I was brown as a Mexican most of my life.. Many people often thought I was one, I was so dark..

    But.. just before I turned 16 we moved to North Texas where the sun wasnt nearly as intense as it was in South Texas nor was I out in it as much as I had been in South Texas so I lost much of my tan. The Spring Break of my 16th year, I went back down to South Texas to go to the Beach (South Padre Island which was still just a local gig for the most part) and camp out there with my sister, brother-in-law, and some of their friends.

    My sister who was 4 years older than me kept telling me to be careful, and to make sure I put sunscreen on… which I did, I guess.. except on my feet.. Yep.. The very first day of Spring Break I burned the tops of my feet so badly I couldnt wear shoes of any kind for almost 2 weeks.

    They were completely blistered and it was just painful moving my foot.
    It ruined the rest of my Spring Break and I had to stay out of the sun at the BEACH.. when everyone else was out there having fun.. sigh.. Only and last time I ever did that.. You can bet I put sunscreen on my feet if Im out in the sun these days.. sigh..


  4. Oh my, as a high schooler I had a first date coming up and in my excitement fell asleep during my tanning “session” in the back yard with lots of baby oil and my sunglasses ON…when I awoke I looked like a racoon with a very severe burn…ahem, I was never asked out on a second date from that young man and as a 44 year old ,my parents still tease about that fiasco!! I was a nut! hahaha 🙂


  5. Don’t put on self-tanner (including the Jergen’s) right before a big event or wearing white capris/shorts. Enough said. LOL.


  6. The smell and the orange hands of old self tanners still haunt me.


  7. I got a really bad sunburn once at the beach when I went on a trip with friends. When I got home, we were leaving on a family trip, and I was in a lot of pain. My skin peeled off in sheets. My Dad was always adamant about sunscreen, because he had already had to have pre-cancerous lesions removed from his forehead. I had used sunscreen, but I guess I didn’t apply it evenly, because I was worse in spots (behind my knees, the tops of my feet, top of my legs right below my behind). I never forgot it, and I am VERY careful now, both for myself and my children. I’ve recently started wearing long-sleeve SPF shirts when I will be out all day. I HATE sunscreen!


  8. I thought you might be telling my story! I was about 14 and thought some “Spring color” would be good. My Aunt had a “sunlamp” that my sister had borrowed to get some sun for her prom. Without supervision, and after reading (and ignoring) the directions and warnings on eye protection, I proceeded to expose my face to the light. I’m not sure how long I exposed my face, trying to keep my eyes closed, but it was obviously too long. The next day I woke up in extreme pain unable to open my eyes. After the confession to my parents, a trip to the eye doctor with the diagnosis of sunburned corneas, and a long painful day home from school, in a dark room with eye drops and cold compresses, I think I learned a lesson on following directions. I am now a bit of a sunscreen freak with my children and hope that those days of childhood tanning bedlam moments don’t haunt me in the years to come.


  9. I am extremely fair skinned, currently with sickening white legs. When I was young I laid out and did all kinds of stupid things. Now I have dark brown spots along both sides of my lower jaws, and some spots starting to appear on my face under my eyes. Paying for all that youthful foolishness. I hope I can find a frugal age spot remover (sun damage spot lighener).


  10. The most embarrassing tanning story would have to be when I was 18 and worked at a tanning salon. We had just gotten a spray tan machine that we had to hand spray the customers. Most of my customers were female, but one day I had a male appointment. I gave him the usual “please get into your bathing suit” information and left the room. When I cam back in, he had his “bathing suit” on and it was a Speedo! I probably looked like I had been in the tanning bed to long when my face turned beet red. I was so embarrassed especially when I had to spray his legs. There was no way to do it properly without getting on the floor, I was mortified.


  11. What is it about 16? Two friends and I spent an entire Saturday outside at a pool without anything but tanning oil. We got sun poisoning! To this day, there is a patch of skin on my chest that tans differently due to the damage from that one day of poor decisions.


  12. Just last summer, I had a tanning bedlam event. I took my kids to a friend’s pool. Not being very comfortable in a bathing suit yet, I wore hot pink swim shorts and a bathing suit tank top. I made such a big deal slathering lotion all over my two kids, especially my blond, fair-skinned little boy. I went on and on talking to my friend about how important sunscreen was and how I had previously had some skin “things” removed that looked suspious. After sitting there on the side of the pool for a long while, I noticed how my shorts were so bright pink that they reflected on my legs and made them look bright pink as well. Wow, look at that I said. Then, I realized that they sort of hurt when I touched them. That is when I realized that I had put sunscreen on my kids, but totally forgot to put any on myself. It took a long time for them to get back to normal. Totally made sad tan lines that lasted all summer. Don’t think I will forget to do that again this year. (I hope!)


  13. I so know what you mean when you talk about that ginormous tanning bulb because my embarrassing story revolves around the same culprit. I too had been told by my parents to use sunscreen and avoid the tanning bulb; however, since I was so smart at 17, I thought surely one time couldn’t hurt. Problem was, this time was the day of my Senior Prom and I just wanted a little sun-kissed skin to go with my 1982 prom dress. I had the perfect location to tan indoors – our living room with the hanging chandelier. I hung the bulb with a drop cord from the light fixture and positioned myself under it. That way, right there in front of the tv, I could listen to my favorite soap opera (also forbidden in my house). Looking back, my biggest mistake was closing my eyes under my tiny goggles (as instructed on the box) and drifting off to sleep for just a few minutes. In those innocent 20 minutes (15 minutes longer than recommended), I became a bright red lobster with goggle eyes. You know what I mean – like when you wear sunglasses in the sun and get sun everywhere except around your eyes! I didn’t look too bad at first; however, as the night wore on (at the PROM), it got worse and worse. My fair skin blistered and it was so painful. Everyone had something to say about it and I will never be able to forget that tanning experience. My prom pictures for that year are really pretty except for my goggle eyes and blistered chest! I definitely use a self-tanning lotion now.


  14. So, tell me ‘mom of teens’ you don’t go slather on that sunscreen on them so they for sure have it? ha! I actually wasn’t intending to ‘tan’ so to say, but…on a July 4, at Pike’s Peak, Colorado Springs, CO, they have car races and although July 4 it was still very cold & windy. I had a sleeping bag to stay warm and lay down out of the way of my husband so as not to disturb his rooting for his favorite racer, I feel asleep face up (this blonde, fair skinned beauty). Not sure exactly how long later I awoke to a very ‘tight’ feeling face and neck. I didn’t go to work the next day but I did after that, very embarrassing for a young married. It eventually turned ‘purplish’ yuck.


  15. I tried self tanners so I could have a nice glow for a wedding I was in and I thought I looked good but later when I saw pictures I had awful streaks on the back of my neck.


  16. I’m part Native American and as a child never worried about burns, as I have always tanned easily at 51 yrs of age I’ve only had one sunburn but it was a doozy.
    I was 21 and I was almost 6 months along with my first child. I had fallen and twisted my ankle badly so I decided to go out and sit in the shade by the pool and just let my legs hang in the water. Now I had forgotten all I learned in school about light and water. You guessed it I was burnt from the knees up My husband felt sorry for me and he decided I should get out of the heat and took me to a movie. That was an even bigger mistake, by the end of E.T. I was blistered on my face, neck, chest, arms and tops of my legs. My clothes were sticking to me from the blisters weeping and I was freezing from the cool air in the theater.
    I have never burnt in the years after and can only think it must have been the pool that caused the burn because I’ve spent many a day in the garden or at the lake and not burnt.


  17. Not really a tanning story but kind of the same idea. I’m very fair skinned and always wished for a rosier complexion. When I was probably 8 or so I got this idea one day to really scrub my cheeks when I washed my face since I noticed it made my cheeks look rosier. So I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed. Yes! They looked nice and rosy! Well, a while later I noticed to my horror that I had scrubbed so hard they were brush burned! Talk about embarrassing! I remember going to church that evening and being so mortified. Thankfully my mom was gracious and didn’t make a big deal about it when people asked what happened. Oh the joys of vanity!


  18. On vacation with my parents I forgot my sunscreen and got a third degree burn so bad I don’t want anything touching my skin! I spent the rest of vacation indoors in the AC with a super loose sweatshirt on with no shirt or bra on underneath!


Share Your Thoughts