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In Defense Of Tanning: How I Went From Tanning Addict To Having A Healthy Glow

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My name is Brooke and I am a tanaholic. Or at least I used to be back in the day. I remember a time in high school and college where I attributed looking healthy and beautiful to a deep, dark skin tone, along with overdone highlights and bronzer brushed over my cheekbones. I hadn't quite entered Snooki territory, but at times, I came pretty damn close.

Since I didn't yet work out on a regular basis, tanning was my way of feeling fit. Whether I was lying out in the sun or under the lamps of a tanning bed, feeling that heat and seeing the almost immediate results gave me a great rush of endorphins. If I went a while between tans, sure I'd burn the first day, but I knew it would transform into a bronze glow the very next.

As I floated through my late teens only applying oil with minimal sunscreen, I remember having conversations with my grandmother who was adamant about SPF. She had gorgeous skin and told me it was because she was always careful when going outside on a hot summer day (or any day the sun was out really). I began to understand the long-term implications of too-tan skin, the threat of cancer and the spots and wrinkles that were almost guaranteed down the line. Starting my junior year in college, I decided to take control of my tanning habits.

That's not to say I was going to stop completely, but I knew I didn't want to end up like "Tanning Mom." My friend Cori would always say: "You are so dedicated to tanning." So why not take that dedication and turn it into something healthier? For me, it was all about moderation and education. I tried to learn about which sunscreens were right for my sensitive skin (Clarins 50+ SPF Sunscreen For Face Wrinkle Control Cream and Clarins Sunscreen Cream High Protection SPF 30 for body), the importance of moisturizer in prolonging a tan (Clarins After Sun Replenishing Moisture Care for Face and Décolleté and Kiehl's Creme de Corps) and how to treat a burn so it heals properly and does minimal long-term damage. Sure, I could've just gotten a spray tan, but I'd rather have the real deal and real feel. Today I lie out whenever I can, always in moderation however and covered in the right amounts of SPF from head to toe.

Tanning beds are definitely no longer in my routine, and it's not about getting a deep tan but getting a natural glow. I may have already done damage to my skin, but all I can do now is continue down a better path. I no longer miss the days when my skin was deeply bronzed, but look forward to the days ahead when my skin will be bright, fresh and hopefully healthy for years to come.

Click through the slideshow below to see some healthy celebrity tans that I admire, as well as some of my favorite sun-protection products.

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