Love the Skin You’re In!

Article Peggy Parolin

“Wear the skin you’re in.”
For husband-and-wife dermatologist team Molly Menser and Brian Matthys, D.O.s, these words have become a mantra, an attempt to dispel the belief that being tan is healthy and cool. In fact, it’s just the opposite. “Tanning is NOT cool; it can be deadly”.
Menser and Matthys, who operate Sunflower Dermatology & Medical Day Spa in Riverside, MO, are intent on educating the public about the dangers and lifelong impact tanning has on the skin. In their practice, they see daily the effects outdoor sun tanning and tanning booths have on a person’s skin. “Skin cancer is now the number one form of cancer in the United States,” cites Menser. “This year, more than 5 million cases of skin cancer in more than two million people will be diagnosed.”
With all the press about the continued popularity of artificial tanning, especially among young women in the Midwest, the doctors saw the need to create a movement that celebrates your natural skin color and sparks discussions on this very topic.
“We realized warnings and reminders simply weren’t enough. Dr. Matthys and I decided to find a positive way to influence young people, to educate them without preaching, and without the repetition of negative messages. Instead of saying, ‘don’t do this or don’t do that’, we want to impress upon them that it’s fashionable not to tan. They can be proud to be pale. We believe fashion is an effective venue for this. Their non-profit organization, Fair and Fashionable: Wear the Skin You’re In ™ is the result.”
Established in 2012, Fair and Fashionable hosted their second annual celebration on October 2, immediately following the Kansas City Fashion Week. Wearing the creations of some of Kansas City’s hottest designers, local models walked the runways at where else, but the couple’s dermatology clinic. The well-attended event achieved the desired effect of creating a message that “healthy, undamaged skin is indeed beautiful”.
Attendees at the event enjoyed complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, received giveaways; door prizes and discounts on all products and future cosmetic appointments booked that evening. Long term, the funds raised through Fair and Fashionable will support on-site education in high schools, sorority houses, college groups, or wherever the information can have the most impact.
‘Our number one goal is to detect skin cancer early and help create healthy habits in early life. We would like to engage peer advocates in high schools and even colleges to educate and help raise awareness about the damage and risks of tanning. The integration of fashion increases that opportunity for us. Fashion fits into students’ everyday lives. Young people pay attention to style, to what’s considered trendy and beautiful. We can reinforce through fashion, showing them how good “fair” can look, that there’s a positive alternative to tanning, to damaging your skin.”
“There’s really no such thing as a safe tan,” explains Menser. “Every single tan is damage to your skin. The moment you are hit with UV rays, either from a tanning bed or from the sun, the body tries to protect itself from the rays by producing melanin. Melanin makes your skin darker; it’s the body’s way of protecting skin from burning. The more exposure to the sun you have, the darker the tan, the more damage occurs.”
Even more dangerous and damaging than an outdoor tan is an indoor tan,” continues Menser. “The World Health Organization recently added ultraviolet (UV) radiation-emitting tanning devices – tanning beds and lamps – to the list of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation. Just one tanning bed session increases the risk of developing melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, by 20 percent. Intermittent use ups the chances to 75 percent. If you have used a tanning bed, you should have a dermatologist check your skin.”
“Melanoma, once considered an older persons disease is killing young people,” emphasizes Menser. It’s now the most common cancer among people ages 25-29 and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 year old. One person in the US dies every 57 minutes of melanoma. You have to ask yourself, is being tan worth it?”
“We’re not saying people shouldn’t have fun in the sun. We’re saying, when you are in the sun, use sunscreen; consider sun protective clothing such SwimZip. Fun can be safe.”
“Tans used to be status symbols, but that’s no longer true,” offers Menser. The trend has come full circle; now we’re back to fair. It’s fashionable to celebrate and to embrace your natural color. We want to change inward thinking about outward appearance. We want people to feel good about themselves as they are, in the skin they’re in.”