How Tanning Affects Your Health
The appeal of a great tan is easy to understand. Having moderately brown skin is a sign of great health as well as a marker of many vacations in the sun. Ever since Coco Chanel started the tanning craze in the 1920s people have been spending time and money to try and replicate that “brown sugar” look. But there are certain trade-offs to getting the perfect tan, and it’s worth getting accustomed with them before you plunge headfirst into this rather controversial hobby:
- Natural sun exposure
The very act of tanning can be explained as your body fighting back against the ultraviolet radiation emanated by the sun during periods of prolonged exposure. It does so by producing more melanin, a pigment that naturally darkens the skin. What this tells you is that spending time in the sun actually causes harm to your skin, and can lead to significant problems like sunburns and even skin cancer.
- Tanning beds and lamps
Tanning beds, whether professional grade or amateur home lamps, are even worse. The artificially induced light in them contains the same harmful ultraviolet radiation, but in even larger quantities for quick results. Simply put, this kind of tanning is not a desirable way to obtain the Vitamin D that your body needs, and it will also prematurely age your skin if used regularly.
As we mentioned earlier, simply being in the sun during hot days when UV radiation is at its worst will have a negative impact on your skin. Take steps to prevent this kind of damage by liberally applying sunscreen with a high sun protection factor on all the exposed areas of your body. Sunscreen can be washed off by water and sweat, so it’s important to reapply it periodically throughout the day.
- Tanning pills
A fairly recent development in the industry, tanning pills have not yet been approved for use in many areas of the world due to questions about their safety. There are two main types of tanning pills available: sunless tanners and tanning boosters. The first work by infusing your body with certain additives that lead to skin coloration. Use of such substances has been linked to serious eye and kidney issues, however, while the dark orange skin tone they offer is a far cry from the look of a natural tan. The second type of pills rely on amino acids to help speed up the natural tanning process, but their effectiveness is hard to gauge since they require regular exposure to UV radiation in order to work.
- Fake tanning
Finally, for people who still want to have darker skin, but without all the dangerous implications of getting a natural tan, there are a plethora of sunless sprays and self-tanners available. Under the motto of “Fake it, don’t bake it”, today’s premium manufacturers encourage their consumers to forego dangerous exposure to UV radiation in favor of an artificial tan that’s virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Using an FDA-approved chemical named dihydroxyacetone or DHA for short, these products come in the form of various creams, lotions and sprays. They do not have a negative impact on skin and won’t lead to skin cancer or sunburns. The only caveat is that most of them do not protect against the sun’s harmful rays, so they need to be paired with sunscreen when heading outside.
It’s also worth mentioning that not every culture under the sun has the same attitude about tanning. While countries like Australia, the US and the UK show a marked preference for tanned looks, many Asian nations still favor white skin as a sign of beauty and well-being. This view is especially prevalent in India, where darker skin tones abound, and in China, where long-running cultural traditions have always held pale skin in high regard.
At this point, the dangers of tanning are as well known as those associated with other hazardous habits such as smoking and drinking. Chasing the perfect tan through natural sun exposure or by visiting commercial solariums is quite clearly a losing fight. But people who want to enjoy the benefits of a darker skin tone can still do so with the help of artificial self-tanning products, which pose no health risks and can be used safely throughout the year. A great tan is a great tan no matter the method use to achieve it, so getting it the non-dangerous way is the only sane route to looking like Coco Chanel in 2016 and beyond.