1. Home
  2. Skin Care
  3. Tanning & Sun Exposure  
Main content

Tanning and Sun Exposure

    • Some people think having a tan gives them a "healthy glow." But a tan really shows that the skin is trying to protect itself from sun damage. Sun damage can lead to premature aging (wrinkles!), eye damage and skin cancer. Even "indoor tanning" is not without risk. Tanning beds and lamps can expose you to even more harmful ultraviolet (UV) light than the sun does. And tanning products such as "self-tanners," sunless sprays and pills can expose you to additional risks, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

      Before you try to get a tan, you should learn how and why our skin tans. When a type of radiation (ultraviolet [UV] radiation) is exposed to the skin, the skin responds by producing melanin. Melanin is a dark substance that helps prevent the body from taking in too many harmful sunrays that can damage skin.

      The sun produces two kinds of rays, UVA and UVB. UVA rays are regarded as “safer” though they cause the skin to age, while UVB rays cause the skin to burn. However, both of these types of rays are harmful and dangerous in large quantities.

      Overexposure to the sun can cause sunburn and even skin cancer. In order to avoid these serious risks, many people choose to obtain a fake tan using some of the methods discussed below.

    • Tanning Beds and Lamps

    • A tanning bed is an artificial way to get a tan. A person lies down on a tanning bed with lights over them. These lights produce UV radiation, most commonly UVA rays but sometimes UVB rays as well. Tanning beds, just like the sun, can damage your skin.

      Overuse of tanning beds can lead to eye damage (especially if you do not wear goggles), skin cancer, as well as aging of the skin. Tanning beds and lamps are just as dangerous as actual sunlight and should be avoided. They are both dangerous and expensive.

    • Sun Protection

    • You can protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun's rays by staying indoors, but most people like to be outdoors at least some of the time. To protect yourself from sun exposure, you should use sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses, and cover as much of your skin with protective clothing as you can.

      Sunscreen is an important part of your sun-protection routine. Sunscreens prevent some UV rays from reaching your skin. Sunscreens are labeled with an SPF (sun protection factor) number. In general, the higher the SPF number, the more protection the product provides against UV light.

      It is important to note that sunscreens can lose their effectiveness if they are not applied thoroughly and completely, washed off by swimming or perspiration, or rubbed off by contact with clothing. Remember to reapply sunscreen periodically.

      The suns rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If possible, do not stay out in the sun for too long during these hours. If you are outside during this time, use a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.

    • Sunless Spray and Self-tanners

    • These products contain color additives that interact with the skin's chemistry, causing it to look darker. The only FDA-approved chemical for this use is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). The FDA has approved DHA only for external use, and recommends that users should take protective measures to avoid contact with eyes, nose and mucous membranes.

      These products can come as creams, lotions or sprays. You can purchase them at most drugstores. Check the ingredient list -- DHA is the only chemical approved by the FDA. These products have barely any risks involved with using them. The only risks are allergic reactions or irritation, but they cannot lead to skin cancer like actual sun exposure can. These sunless tanners are not a substitute for sunscreen, so if you put them on and are going outside, you must use a sunscreen as well.

    Have A Question About Your Skin?