Teen Wake-Up Calls: Sheila

Teen Wake-Up Calls: Sheila

"I love being tan. I tan year-round. I tan two to three times a week, but if I have a special event coming up, I tan every day," confesses 18-year-old Sheila.

The teen started sunning four years ago and says it's much more than a hobby. "I love having darker skin because it makes me feel better about myself," she confesses. In the past year, she spent over 400 hours in tanning salons. "I do the maximum time. I use an enhancer to get a deeper tan. A lot of the times, my mom will say I'm too dark."

Her mother, Lori, weighs in. "My biggest fear is that she will get skin cancer, and I don't want her looking 50 when she's only 30," she says.


Sheila makes light of the health risks associated with too much sun exposure. "I always tell her that if I'm going to die of cancer, then I'm going to die tan," she teases. "I always joke that I'm going to marry rich so that he can pay for all the damage that I'm doing to my skin now!"

Lori fears that Sheila's words will come back to burn her. She turns to Dr. Phil. "I can't get through to my daughter. Can you help me get her out of the sun?" she pleads.

Dr. Phil flies Sheila to Los Angeles to meet with Alan, a Hollywood makeup artist. The teen is about to get the star treatment ... sort of!

"I'm going to make Sheila look like she's going to look in about 25 years if she keeps tanning the way she does," Alan says. Applying thick make-up and a rubber mixture, he creates wrinkles, sunspots and a leathery complexion.

Sheila gapes at her face in the mirror. "It looks terrible. I definitely look better before the makeover," she laughs. Yet, the age-progression doesn't faze her. "I don't think my tanning would ever do this. This isn't going to make me stop tanning!"

Dr. Phil has an urgent message for Sheila. "You may think the problem you would face is just wrinkles, and that plastic surgery can take care of all that. But I want you to meet someone who wants to share her story with you, and a lot of other young women, so you have an idea of just exactly how bad it can get," he says. 

Sheila sits down with Karen, a skin cancer survivor.  "I probably went to the tanning salon three or four times a week. I went to the beach any time I had a chance. I was out in the sun loving it. My life came to a screeching halt because the doctor told me I had six months left to live," Karen recounts. "He was telling me I had stage four melanoma all because of my love affair with the sun. I had a big tumor in my jaw. It grew through my jaw bone and it slowly broke the bone off the bottom of my face. I had 14 operations."


Karen is lucky to be alive. "I had spots on my liver. I had 32 tumors in my lymph system. I spent 22 weeks in the hospital. I've had roommates throughout the years during my treatments who are your age, and all of them are dead. I'm not the norm. Most people don't survive this," she tells Sheila. "Sun tanning isn't worth your life."

Sheila muses over Karen's tragic story. "When I said I was going to die tan before, I didn't really mean it, because I didn't think that that could actually happen to me. I'm glad I had someone like Karen talk to me now than later when it may be too late," she says.

"So where do you stand on this now?" Dr. Phil asks Sheila.

"I don't think I'm ready to stop tanning yet," she replies, "Maybe just a couple more years."

Dr. Phil looks at her skeptically. "What's the payoff?"

Sheila says her choice is an aesthetic one. "I'm more comfortable with my general appearance," she explains.

Dr. Phil turns to Lori. "What do you think about this?" he asks. 

"I think she needs to stop," Lori says. Yet, she feels powerless to curtail her daughter's tanning. "She has a job, a car. She can go whether I say no or yes," she says. 

Dr. Phil is perplexed. "Really? So you have no control?" he asks. 

"I don't think I do. She can do it behind my back," Lori insists. 

"It seems to me just inherently obvious that you're putting yourself at risk," Dr. Phil says. "Do you think you're going to feel incredibly stupid if you get a bad diagnosis after all this?"

"Yes," Sheila says.

"The thing that I worry about is why you feel like you need this to enhance yourself enough to feel good about who you are," Dr. Phil says. "Don't you have a good personality? Aren't you intelligent in most areas?" 

Dr. Phil suggests a healthier alternative to tanning. He presents Sheila with a basket of Neutrogena self-tanning products. "If what you want is the affect, why don't you do it chemically?" he asks.

"I guess I could try this way," Sheila says grudgingly.


"Your enthusiasm is underwhelming," Dr. Phil jokes.

Everybody in the audience will also receive Neutrogena products.