Tanning can be addictive warns pyschologist

Eva Kammoun cannot go a single week without tanning. In fact, she can barely miss a day. The 26-year-old sales executive lays out in the sun from 10am until 5pm every weekend and visits the tanning salon about four times a week.

Eva Kammoun says she is addicted to tanning and is photographed in her Garhoud home in Dubai.
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DUBAI // Eva Kammoun cannot go a week without tanning. In fact, she can barely miss a day.

The sales executive lies out in the sun between 10am and 5pm every weekend, and visits the tanning salon about four times a week.

Ms Kammoun’s tanning habits started 16 years ago, at the tender age of 11.

“I can’t see myself white or getting pale,” she said. “[Being tan]  makes me feel good about myself and gives me confidence.”

Ms Kammoun, from Lebanon, said she realised this was an addiction when she started getting up at 8am on the weekend just to catch the sun, no matter how little sleep she had the night before.

Her family and doctors have warned her about the risks of excessive tanning.

“I know, but I believe I could die in a car accident – it’s all about destiny,” she said.

Ms Kammoun acknowledged that tanning is an activity under her control, and admitted negligence played a part.

“I guess what it all comes down to is that I personally don’t care,” she said. “I know what I’m doing is wrong but it doesn’t bother me.”

It is her carelessness that concerns her, rather than the tanning. Ms Kammoun said her addiction to tanning had sometimes compromised her social life, once leading to an ultimatum.

“I was in a committed relationship and it reached a point where my boyfriend told me it’s either me or the solarium,” she said. “I was able to quit for five months but as soon as we broke up I went back to the same habits.”

Devika Singh, a psychologist at the Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre, said tanning had a psychological and chemical effect.

“For some individuals it really takes over,” Ms Singh said. “It’s what happens when they depend on an external set of behaviours that will result in some form of temporary satisfaction.

“For example, exercise addicts will say they exercise excessively because it makes them feel good. We have to go to the underlying cause, what is it that this person is trying to avoid?”

Tanning also produces a chemical reaction similar to the endorphin rush exercise produces.

“Although there is no equal substitute for natural sunlight, the UV produced by artificial tanning beds can stimulate vitamin D production,” Dr Singh said.

“Vitamin D plays an important role in managing stress and regulating a person’s mood. Some people use that as a justification – but we have to go back to the original question: why do they require so much?”

Despite her addiction, Ms Kammoun supports Dubai Municipality’s move to stop those under 18 using tanning beds.

"They should even consider increasing it to 21," she said. "It may prevent youngsters from reaching the point I'm at now."