Getting outdoors is important for both your physical health and mental health. While laying outside and soaking up the warm sun sounds like a relaxing plan, your skin says otherwise.
The safest way to tan your skin is to ultimately not tan at all (unless it is coming from a bottle or is a spray tan by a professional). Tanning, whether it is outdoors or in a tanning bed, comes with serious long-term effects on your skin and your health.
Here we outline what happens when you tan your skin and how you can keep your skin safe:
Dangers of Outdoor Tanning
As long as you get tan and not burn, you’re fine right? False. Did you know that the sun-kissed skin you got after a day at the beach is actually damaged DNA?
While you’re out laying in the sun, the ultraviolet rays are causing damage to both the skin’s epidermis and dermis layers. Your skin then produces melanin (tanning pigment) as a means of self-protection and serves as a shield to help it avoid further damage from the sun. In other words, your tan is a result of your skin trying to protect itself.
Everyone has a different tanning time, or tanning cut-off point, meaning your skin can’t produce any more melanin. Once your skin reaches that cut-off point, you’re just subjecting your skin to the potential UV damage.
Sun damage builds over time. The more your skin is damaged by the sun, the more likely you are to develop melanoma, an extreme form of skin cancer. It also accelerates the wear and tear on your skin, aging you faster.
Dangers of Indoor Tanning
Contrary to popular belief — or what that tanning salon worker told you — tanning beds are not a safer alternative to tanning outside.
Spending a short amount of time in a tanning bed is the equivalent of spending several hours in the sun without sunscreen. When you use tanning beds, the intense UV rays are applied directly to your body. This can affect your skin, as well as harm your eyes.
Since tanning beds increase the release of endorphins (the feel-good chemicals), tanning beds can ultimately become addicting, and many states have also banned the use of tanning beds for minors.
It is said that there are more skin cancer cases related to the use of tanning beds than there are cancer cases related to cigarettes. So, don’t be fooled by the thought that a short amount of time in a tanning bed won’t affect you.
How to Safely Tan
Like we previously mentioned, unless you’re self-tanning or you’re getting a spray tan, there is no form of sun tanning that is safe. However, there are measures you can take to enjoy the sun with minimal harm to your skin.
Sunscreen should be your best friend when you’re exposing your skin to UV rays, regardless of skin type or tone. If you’re going to be outside for an extended period of time, you should be reapplying sunscreen every two hours. Wearing sunscreen reduces the risk of developing melanoma and adds an extra layer of protection.
Peak heat is typically between 10 in the morning, until 4 in the afternoon. This is when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. And remember, just because it is cloudy or you’re in the shade, the sun’s UV rays can still affect your skin. The sun can still bounce off water, peek through leaves and branches, and radiate through the clouds.
The sun can be relaxing, but be sure not to get too comfortable in one spot (we’ve all fallen asleep outside without realizing it at least once). Changing your angle can often help avoid extended and direct exposure to individual body parts. Also, take some breaks once in a while and seek some shade.
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