Heading for the beach? Grab your shades, your towel and your sandals, but don’t forget some sun block even if you are desperate for that golden glow. Studies show that more than one million people will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year, and a strong correlation is linked between those who worship the sun and the disease itself.
Proms, weddings and summer splendor…these three suntan motivators inherently urge women of all ages—and sometimes even men—to strive for a balanced bronzing of the skin. According to scientific research, such a thing as a “healthy tan” does not exist. Tanning is, in essence, the skin’s reaction to damage already done, and a defensive attempt to protect itself from further harm.
The UV (or Ultraviolet) rays are the most threatening component of a natural suntan. Two types of UV rays, UVA and UVB, negatively affect the skin by deeply penetrating our skin and potentially damage gene composition. UVA rays (the predominant type) tend to cause skin cancer after prolonged periods of time. Sunburn and the redness associated with sun exposure result from UVB rays, which are also a strong risk factor for skin cancer. Personal tanning methods available today attempt to eliminate the UV rays from coming in contact with the skin, yet you have to wonder how safe you are when shutting yourself in a tiny tanning booth for 30 minutes at a time!
Salon Tanning Options:
Popularity of tanning beds tends to soar as teens strive for the prom-perfect hue and women of all ages aim to avoid the pasty white complexions they suffered long enough through the winter. Though they are thought to be only slightly more protective than getting a natural tan due to the controlled environment, risks are still associated with tanning beds as the exposure to UV rays is still present.
Did you know there is a recommended allotment of time that one should not exceed in the course of a year when using a tanning bed? According to the British Photodermatology Group (BPG—a branch of the British Association of Dermatologists), one should not surpass 10 sets of 30-minute sessions twice a year, or in other words, 10 hours of exposure per year. I am willing to bet most of us blow ten hours of sun exposure out of the water on each vacation we take!
Natural Tanning Options:
If you simply cannot avoid worshipping the sun on a gorgeous day, consider using sunscreen with a low SPF. This will still allow tanning, but the skin will receive at least a small degree of protection from the powerful rays. Be especially cautious when in or on the water, as the sun may badly burn the skin without any warning signs. Hats and t-shirts can provide a degree of protection when one is enjoying the weather, playing sports or simply relaxing on a nice day.
Some individuals should exercise extreme caution when exposed to the sun, including those with very fair skin, those who burn often or tan poorly, those who have many freckles or moles, those under age 16, and those who have a history of skin cancer themselves or in the family history. Even if these conditions do not apply to you personally, it is still very important to be smart about your own exposure to the sun.
Sunless Self-Tanning Options:
Doubtlessly a safer method of tanning than natural tanning and visits to the salon, self-tanning products have taken leaps and bounds in technology—far beyond the “orange tone” so many worry about experiencing. Self-tanning products come in several forms—lotions, gels, wipes, sprays, and now, even a pill! The pill stimulates the pigment to change without any exposure to the sun, which is actually thought to be a positive preventive alternative to harmful sun exposure.
For those who still enjoy the trip to the salon but don’t feel the need to visit a tanning bed, a new tanning-spray treatment is available at some salons. It is quick, about a 30 second application with instant results. All of these tanning options involve the active ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA.), which is responsible for the change in skin tone. Many of the products available also contain moisturizers and vitamins to help the skin remain healthy and soft while not exposing the body to any UV rays. Even with an artificially produced tan, it is vital to practice protective measures to prevent sun damage. A simple sunblock will do, in addition to monitoring your exposure to the sun.
No matter which tanning option you settle for if you simply must have that glowing tan, use caution when you bask in the rays at the shore or wherever. Keep these important points in mind whenever you are exposed to the sun for a significant duration of time:
1. Do your best to avoid falling asleep while tanning. We all know how tempting it is to take that relaxing nap to the sounds of the surf, but you could wake up fried to a painful crisp!
2. Even if you are determined to go home with some color, try a very low SPF level sunscreen. Something as low as SPF 15 will do more good for your skin than bare exposure!
3. When you do experience sunburn, keep aloe and cocoa butter on hand. Aloe is known to soothe the skin, while cocoa butter helps in keeping skin soft and smooth while also repairing it and preventing peeling after sun damage.
We all love to sport a beautiful tan as the weather gets nicer and the sun stays out longer, but please be careful in choosing your tanning methods. This piece is meant to bring awareness to the risks of UV exposure and to aid you in your search for a proper tanning procedure. By providing an overall view of the options, this work highlights several tanning procedures that are widely accepted for personal tanning. However, this article should not be used in substitute for the advice of your physician or a medical professional.