Natural sunlight and tanning beds have been shown to emit ultraviolet (UV) rays, which subject your skin to the increased risk of premature aging, eye diseases, and developing cancer. These effects are brought about by the emission of two types of ultraviolet rays: UVA, and UVB.
How does UV radiation cause damage?
A tan, browning of the skin, happens when the body tries to protect itself from detrimental effects of UV rays exposure.
Precisely, the melanocytes cells located beneath the skin surface produce more melanin to absorb the low doses of UV light, causing the skin to darken.
If there’s too much UV light, however, it will result in the penetration of different skin layers and cause serious consequences. As we mentioned earlier, sunshine and tanning beds or lamps produce UVA and UVB rays.
Well, these types of rays have different wavelengths. The UVB rays have middle-range wavelengths that can only penetrate the skins’ outermost layers known as the epidermis. The UVA rays, on the other hand, have longer wavelengths to penetrate the skin’s middle layer (dermis).
A sunbed can emit UVA radiation 12 times higher than natural sunlight. Since both UVA and UVB emissions penetrate the layers of the skin, they can mess with the cellular DNA.
With UVB radiation, you will experience sunburn or skin reddening. Deeper penetration from UVA radiation can lead to aging of the skin cells and deep wrinkles.
Worse, prolonged UV exposure can damage melanocytes and may develop into a serious type of skin cancer known as malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma accounts for 1 percent of all skin cancers.
What’s more, the UV rays can penetrate the eye’s surface tissues, cornea, and the lens. This can cause problems such as irritation, cataracts, macular degeneration, pterygia, pingueculae, and conjunctivitis.
Safer Ways to Get Tanned Skin
If getting a sun-kissed glow is a must for you but don’t want to increase the risk of wrinkles and skin cancer, then here’s what you’ll need to do.
- Use spray tans or tanning lotions
Using spray tans or tanning lotions is one of the safest ways to get a tan. The sprays and lotions can stimulate true tanning because they contain a certain chemical known as dihydroxyacetone. This sugar-like molecule usually reacts with the skin proteins, creating a brownish color without damaging your skin.
With spray tans, it’s best to consider getting it done by a professional if possible. That way, you can be sure the spray product will be evenly applied to your body. If you choose to do it at home, ensure it doesn’t make contact with your eyes. Also, don’t breathe it in.
A tanning lotion or cream is the easiest to use at home to create a more even tan. Just take a shower and exfoliate your skin using a washcloth. Leave your skin to dry off, put on some gloves, and then apply the cream or lotion on your body. Massage it in a circular motion.
- Tanning Pills
Some tanning tablets contain, PABA and Copper whilst others contain canthaxanthin, which is a chemical compound naturally occurring in several plants and animals.
This chemical dissolves in lipids that make up the tissues in the outermost layer of the skin, where the color attaches the cells beneath the skin, giving it a darker tint.
I recommend using a brand that uses PABA, Copper, and L-tyrosine as they are much safer ingredients than canthaxanthin. RioTan tan tablets are a good place to start.
But let’s say that you must use sunbeds or sunbathe here are some tips to stay as safe as possible:-
- Cover Your Eyes With Goggles or Shades
Wearing sunglasses in the sun or goggles on a sunbed that fit comfortably over your eyes is highly recommended. Specially designed eyewear can help protect your eyes by blocking 100 percent of the harmful UV emission when tanning under the sun or sunbed.
- Wear Sunscreen
Another safe way to tan is to apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 to 30. You should also apply it generously to the areas not covered by clothing like your face, neck, arms, and ears.
Available in creams, lotions, gels, sprays, ointments, wipes, and lip balms, SPF sunscreens can help block the UV rays and prevent sunburns. Apply it regularly depending on your skin type and how long you’ll be exposed to the UV rays.
Exposure to UV light causes the body to release the feel-good hormones (endorphins), that’s why many people find sun exposure addictive despite being aware of the dangers. For a safe tan though, be sure to consider the safer options instead.