Safe Tanning

If you've been wondering about the possibility of safe tanning methods, the good news is that there are ways to achieve a golden tan without putting your skin or health at risk. The bad news is that many continue to seek the unsafe alternatives, but with more education on this subject, you'll be able to make the right decision that won't come back to haunt you later on in life.

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It's a known fact that the more you expose your skin to the sun without any form of protection, the greater your chances are of damaging it. In this day and age, cases of skin cancer, namely melanoma, are still high, and unfortunately, there are still many that forego the warnings and continue to turn to tanning practices that have long been deemed unsafe.

Some people prefer sun bathing to any artificial tanning methods and while they don't necessarily see it as a safe tanning method, they strongly feel that it is the best way of achieving a golden tan that does not appear fake. However, unless proper protection is used, sun bathing can increase the chances of developing severe sunburn and then the dreaded skin cancer. Even those that wear sunscreen while sun bathing tend to ignore the rule of reapplication every two hours and simply allow the sunscreen to wear off. Others do not even take the step to apply sunscreen and readily lie beneath the sun's rays.

Many people have now turned to tanning beds in order to get a tan that does not require being out in the sun. While they see this as a safe tanning alternative, the truth is that tanning beds still carry the same dangers as regular sun bathing. Tanning beds use the same ultraviolet rays that we are exposed to outdoors. The best choice is for a tanning bed that uses UVB rays, and not predominantly UVA rays, which has been common. While not under the actual sun's rays, your skin and body can still benefit from a healthy dose of these UVB rays. Healthy in that they enable your skin to make Vitamin D, which seems to have an increasing number of health benefits, not least of which is to reduce your chances of getting cancer! UVB rays are the rays that burn your skin, so for safe tanning, the idea is not to overdo your time in the tanning bed.

Another safe tanning solution is to use sunless tanning products that use special ingredients and formulas to darken your skin without the use of any ultraviolet rays. This is done through raising the melanin levels within your skin, which is what causes it to darken. Once your melanin levels are increased, your skin is actually better equipped to tan and not burn when exposed to the sun. These raised melanin levels are seen in very dark skinned people, who do not burn much in the sun at all. The reverse is the case with very fair skinned people. This tanning approach is very popular with people who want to prepare their skin beforehand, for extended time in the sun such as while on an annual holiday or some sort of outdoor adventure.

The real crux of the matter is that safe tanning does not apply if you go out in the sun for long enough to get sun burnt. Ie. Unprotected when your skin type starts to burn. In doing so you risk:

  • Getting wrinkly, prematurely-aged skin
  • Getting nasty, painful sunburns that will most likely peel, leaving layers of mottled, unsightly skin colors
  • Getting skin cancer or even melanoma

Of the thousands of new cases of skin cancer reported (over 60,000 this year) it is not so coincidental that most of these people have not taken care of their skin when out in the sun. There are certain risk factors to consider when deciding what kind of sun protection you require to achieve safe tanning:

  • Determine what kind of skin you have. Fair skin and light-colored eyes require extra precautions. Most fair people will burn within 15 minutes in midday sun. The darker your skin, the more sun exposure you can take without getting burnt
  • The closer you live to the equator, the more likely you are to get sunburned. This doesn't have to be exact but in general terms the further away you are from the equator, the less direct the sun's rays will be and hence the less effective in burning
  • UV radiation increases about 5 percent for every 1,000 feet you go above sea level. The higher the altitude, the greater the chance for sunburn
  • Many medications contain chemicals that cause the skin to react differently to UV rays. EG, antibiotics, antihistamines, oral contraceptives, tricyclic antidepressants and most acne medications will cause your skin to burn rather than tan. If you think a medication you are taking may fall into one of these categories, try to use a sunscreen with a higher SPF than you would normally

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