The lengths we have gone to achieve the desirable sun-kissed, bronzed look are often laughable. In years past we’ve lathered ourselves with baby oil or created aluminum foil reflectors to maximize the opportunity for a tan. Now we have tanning beds as the weapon of choice for achieving a quicker tan. But the consequences of too many years of sunbathing and sunburns can result in premature wrinkles, brown spots and worst of all, skin cancer. With all of the information available about the dangers of tanning, why do so many of us still put ourselves at risk with harmful tanning practices.
When the body is exposed to ultraviolet radiation (UVA rays), cells called melanocytes are stimulated to produce melanin, the brown pigment responsible for the tan. As a result of tanning, more melanin is produced as an agent to protect the skin from the damage of the sun. Darker people have more melanin in their body than do light-skinned people.
Nobody is 100% immune to getting skin cancer, and in fact, some people are more susceptible to lasting skin damage depending on skin type. Dermatologists have identified six skin types ranging from Type I, those with the fairest skin who always burn, to Type VI, skin that is deeply pigmented and never burns.
Those with Type I and II skin should always avoid prolonged periods in the sun and never forget to lather up with a high SPF sunscreen. Those with more natural protection from the sun (Type V and VI) are at less of a risk from the dangers of tanning, but should still never neglect to protect themselves from future sun damage.
Fake and Bake:
Not everyone has the time to lie out religiously at the beach to achieve a bronzed body. Since the 1980s, women started to fake and bake in tanning beds to solve this problem, only to create more dangers of tanning in turn. Tanning beds emit more UVA rays in a shorter period of time than the does the sun. While UVA rays may not burn like UVB rays, they penetrate the skin deeper, putting you at greater risk for premature aging and skin cancer. Tanning beds can also damage your eye sight and immune system, and if not properly sanitized, can be a haven for bacteria.
Skin cancer doesn’t just happen to people in their 40s and 50s. Increasingly, people as young as 20 have been diagnosed with skin cancer. Skin cancer is the number one most preventable cancer in the U.S., yet the most common. The deadliest form of skin cancer is melanoma, which if diagnosed and treated early enough can be almost 100% curable.
The two most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, which grows slowly, and squamous cell carcinoma, which usually stays in the epidermis but can metastasize or spread. Besides avoiding prolonged hours in the sun or in a tanning bed, remember to always wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, and apply on the most forgotten areas of your body like the ears and scalp.
If you can be a bottled blond, you can have a bottled tan. To achieve the golden look minus the wrinkles and chance of skin cancer later, try tanning lotions or spray-on tans, which are available at local tanning salons. Tanning lotions contain the ingredient dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, which oxidizes on the skin’s outermost layer, creating the look of a tan.
The results from a sunless tan can last anywhere between several days to two weeks. Tanning lotions are cheaper than spray-on tans and can easily give you the same results. To avoid unsightly streaks, exfoliate with a loofah prior to application to wipe away any dead skin cells.
3 Tanning Myths
1. A tan is healthy and protects you from sunburn. No tan from the sun is healthy. It is simply a visible sign that you have damaged your skin.
2. Getting a tan helps clear up acne. There’s no concrete evidence to support this statement. Tanning can actually irritate the skin and if you are using certain prescription acne treatments, staying out of the sun or artificial light is strongly recommended.
3. The body needs Vitamin D, and tanning is a way of obtaining it. Vitamin D is indeed an essential vitamin that the skin can manufacture as a result of sun exposure, but just one hour of daily sun exposure is enough to meet the RDA for this nutrient. Everyday exposure to the sun and some foods provide adequate amounts of Vitamin D for the body. If appealing to your health doesn’t strike a cord with you, think about how the wrinkles and leathery appearance might look 20 years down the road. Change your mentality of worrying about consequences later and start thinking in terms of your present actions affecting your future health.
Sun-kissed skin does look great, but you can safely achieve the same results with a sunless tan. Invest in keeping your skin beautiful and healthy, away from the sun, and avoid the dangers of tanning.
Stay Healthy & Happy Always with Sasya Emzee