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Is There Such a Thing as a Safe Tan?

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 6 May 2011 | comments*Discuss
 
Sunscreen Uva And Uvb Protection Spray

For many of us, the ideal summer look includes beautifully bronzed skin. We tend to view it as highly attractive and healthy. Although society may favour the sun-kissed look, physicians would certainly disagree. To them, a tan is evidence of sun damage, not a beauty goal.

Whether or not we should be seeking a golden summer glow, we certainly do. Too much sun exposure is a danger to anyone, especially to younger skin, which is 15 times thinner than an adult's. Therefore, you should always ensure that your children are well protected when they are in the sun by applying high factor sun lotion and making them wear sun hats.

Premature Ageing

Sunbathing without the protection of sunscreen is an invitation to premature aging of the skin, as well as increasing the risk of skin cancer. Although a limited amount of unprotected sun exposure may be recommended in order for our bodies to produce a Sufficient Amount Of Vitamin D, this requires only a few minutes of early morning or late afternoon exposure. No responsible physician would condone spending time in the midday sun without the protection of a broad spectrum sunscreen.

Sunscreen Protection

Choosing a sunscreen is usually done by SPF factor. The higher the number, the longer your child can be outside without burning. You should apply the cream or lotion 15-30 minutes before your child ventures out, to allow time for the skin to absorb it. There are two basic forms of sunscreen; one works by absorbing UV light while the other disperses the sun's rays. Recent advancements in sunscreens make them lighter on the skin, which is certainly more pleasant to wear than yesteryear's heavy, oily versions.

There are a few cautions, however. No sunscreen provides complete protection, so rubbing on the sunscreen is by no means a license to spend countless hours in the sun without risk. In fact, although a high SPF number may mean that you will not suffer sunburn, there are no guarantees that you will not still be exposed to harmful UVA radiation.

UVA and UVB Rays

UV radiation is made up primarily of two types of rays: UVA rays and UVB rays. UVA rays are thought to penetrate the skin at a deep level, so although you may not show reddening of your skin after exposure, UVA exposure can cause wrinkles and leathery skin – certainly not the goal when we choose sunbathing to get beautiful summer skin! Additionally, UVA rays are responsible for several types of skin cancer, including melanoma, which can be deadly. UVB rays will cause painful sunburn and may also be the root cause of some types of skin cancer.

One word of caution: not all sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays, and even in those that do, there is no such thing as complete protection. Clearly, when exposing your skin to the summer sun, moderation is best.

Fake Tan

Informed tan seekers often forego the sun's rays altogether in favour of an artificial tan. Unlike the products of several decades ago, which produced an unattractive orange colour on most people, today's faux tanning products often provide users with an even, natural colour that can be hard to distinguish from the real thing. As with all things, however, some are better than others.

Tanning beds are never a good choice. A recent report suggests that the radiation delivered from sun beds is actually more harmful that those produced by the sun. Just steer clear.

Spray tans are increasingly popular and appear to be pretty safe. There have been a few isolated instances of patrons complaining of throat problems that they believe stemmed from inhalation of the tanning product, and one alleged case of an unclean tanning nozzle causing the tanning solution to separate, filling the chamber with chemicals. Sticking with well known companies reduces any risks, and overall, spray tans seem alright.

The winner in the tanning competition is self-tanning lotion. When used as directed, these lotions produce a natural, streak-free tan that has no documented side effects. Unless you happen to be one of the rare people who have a sensitivity to self-tanning lotions, you can consider them to be your safest bet for the look of a beautiful, bronze summer tan.

For more information, read our article on Sun Safety for Babies and Children.

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