While our regular Guru is taking break from writing this summer, I decided to put my research skills at use and try to provide you with some helpful material.
Last night I read an anti-sun tanning article, one that makes you think that a brief exposure to the sun will inevitably result in melanoma, which is a form of skin cancer. As an owner of pale skin, I secretly envy glamorous people with bronze skin color. Despite all the precautions, I am not ready to give up give tanning, so now I am challenging myself to discover the least damaging path to caramel skin.
Why tanning is bad for us? Together with sunlight, our skin gets exposed to various kinds of radiation, one of which is UV radiation.
UV rays are the ones that are responsible for quick skin aging, decreased immune system function and skin cancer. When UV rays reach the skin’s surface, some of them are bounced back by the unique protective ability of our skin. Others go through into the epidermis and activate melanocyte (pronounced MEL-an-no-SIGHT) cells that secrete brown pigment into our skin. This is what makes us look tanned.
Dark skin protects us from UV rays, and this is why people with darker skin are at a lesser risk of skin cancer. However, having darker skin doesn’t provide complete protection. Many UV rays will still be able to reach the core of skin cells and damage DNA, which is a cause of cancer.
Now, a DNA explanation is intimidating, but it is too scientific and confusing, which makes it not frightening enough … at least for me. However, what did scare me is that almost every article I read clearly stated, DO NOT TAN! Not a single article of research showed a positive result of sunbathing.
The same goes for indoor tanning. Apparently, tanning beds use lamps that produce UV radiation. Indoor tanning is very convenient, quick and beeeaaauuutiful. However, the same tanning principles and risks apply here. In fact, tanning bed exposure is considered to be more dangerous than natural sunlight, as there is no way you can avoid the merciless UV rays from the bulbs. Again, scientists are united in their opinion about indoor tanning and say, DO NOT TAN!
Well, it looks like my options for tanning have run out. Although … wait! I forgot about spray tans.
Spray tan is the only tan that doesn’t require sun and, of course, doesn’t have UV radiation. If you really think about it, a spray tan is actually not a tan at all. It is a chemical reaction between a spray and dead layer of your skin. Once the dead skin cells wear off, so does the tan. Spray tan has a bad reputation, as it can often result in an embarrassing, orange-looking color or can start peeling off instead of evenly fading away with time.
Despite the negative aesthetic facts, dermatologists believe that spray tan is the least harmful way of tanning available right now. However, it contains many chemicals — some of which are not well researched — and that alone kind of undermines its safety for me.
So what do we have? Outside or indoor tanning that can result in skin damage and long-term health problems, or spray tan, which can give you weird orange look plus unknown chemicals.
It looks like a healthy way of being bronze just does not exist right now. The safest option would be to avoid tanning and wait until bronze skin will go out of fashion.