Contrary to popular misconception, there are plenty of benefits to sun exposure that make tanning a viable option when done safely. In fact, some research finds that outdoor workers are less likely to develop melanoma, suggesting that sun exposure has a protective effect. Knowing the proper steps to a safe tan will reduce associated risks while keeping a healthy glow intact.
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Everyone knows that tanning beds are associated with skin cancer, but just how strong a connection is it? Individuals who begin using tanning beds before the age of 35 increase their risk of developing melanoma by 75%. Of course, this risk increases with an increased use of tanning beds, making regular sunless tanners (including those over age 35) more likely to acquire the disease. And while tanning beds do offer vitamin D, it’s much safer to ingest vitamin D through eating enriched foods than exposing your body to chemical risk.
Spray On The Sunshine
Then there’s spray tanning. Since the 1970s, spray tanning has been thought of as a safe alternative to tanning beds. And while a spray tan is generally safe, there are some associated risks of inhaling spray tan solution that carries a range of side effects. In particular, doctors caution against dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the main chemical in spray tanning solutions, which can cause severe headaches or provoke an asthma reaction when inhaled. Spray tanners should keep their mouths closed during the procedure and inspect their bodies beforehand for cuts or open wounds to prevent the possibility of DHA entering the bloodstream.
The primary issue with tanning in the sun is overexposure, which can cause wrinkles, sunburn, skin cancer, and sunspots. To avoid overexposure, sunbathers should gradually increase their time in the sun each day to develop a sun tolerance. Of course, any time in the sun, even when tanning, should be accompanied by sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Sunscreen can actually boost your tan by making your skin more supple and durable against UV rays. Apply 30 minutes before sun exposure and re-apply every hour (or more if you’re in the water, which washes away sunscreen).
Another good tip for sun tanning is to always exfoliate before sun exposure to prep your skin. The more you exfoliate, the more shallow your skin will be, which makes your tan last longer. Use a gentle shower scrub or loofah to wash away dead skin cells before tanning to keep your skin tone even and glowing.
Whether sunless or suntan, knowing the risks and precautionary steps to tanning will make you better equipped for a healthy glow. You can drastically reduce the risk of skin cancer or other medical problems through responsible tanning. And ultimately, your skin will thank you for the extra TLC.