In One Selfie, This Woman Shows What Unsafe Tanning Can Do To Your Skin

Warning: graphic image.

With beach season rapidly approaching, everyone wants a little bit of tan. But many people don't realize the price they're paying for that sun-kissed skin.

When she was in high school, 27-year-old Tawny Willoughby says she would use her tanning bed four to five times a week.

"I never laid in the tanning bed and in the sun in the same day. I never laid in the tanning bed twice in one day," Willoughby said of her "safety measures" in a Facebook post.

Despite all of her efforts, Willoughby was diagnosed with skin cancer at 21. In the six years since her first diagnosis, she's received an additional five.

According to CNN, her dermatologist often removes the cancerous bits of skin in-office as soon as they're discovered.

To raise more awareness about the damage unprotected sunbathing can have on our skin, Willoughby posted a graphic selfie on her Facebook last month.

The harrowing image of Willoughby's blistered face went instantly viral. So far, it has accumulated more than 60,000 shares.

"If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go!"

As Willoughby explains in her Facebook post, she visits the dermatologist about every 6 to 12 months. The picture she uploaded apparently depicts her in the aftermath of an imiquimod cream treatment meant to combat her skin cancer.

The treatment has some pretty icky side effects. It can cause the skin to become red and sore, even begin to scab.

Willoughby told CNN that her greatest fear right now is developing melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. As a young mother, she is afraid that her disease might prevent her from seeing her children grow up.

"Wear sunscreen and get a spray tan. You only get one skin and you should take care of it. Learn from other people's mistakes," Willoughby advises.

So how do you protect yourself from developing skin cancer after all?

Well, for one, you can avoid using tanning beds and sun lamps altogether. Be sure to wear sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays every time you go outside, and try sunglasses that have UV protection. Don't forget lip balm! 

American Academy of Dermatology also suggests that you perform skin self-exams that will help you spot possible cancerous formations early. If you see anything suspicious, don't be afraid to make an appointment. AAD also offers free skin cancer screenings.

Basically, just be aware of what's happening to your skin. Love it. Treat it well. Be healthy!

(H/T: CNN)

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