Sun Skin Myths: The healthy base tan.

It is February and how many of you are itching for some sun? The warm feeling on your skin, a golden tan, falling asleep on the beach to the sound of the waves ...

Both burning and tanning come at the cost of permanent damage to the skin.

Unprotected exposure to UVB rays, the so called burning rays, cause sunburn and with that permanent damage to the skin. This damage is cumulative: Your body will not be able to repair all the damage caused by the sun. Damage buildup over time can trigger mutations and eventually cause skin cancer. Every sun burn counts: once the skin is red, the damage is done. It it imperative to prevent the skin from burning.

But doesn't a tan protect you from burning?

UVA rays, the so called aging rays, penetrate deeper into the skin where they trigger melanocite cells that produce melanin, or pigment: a tan. A tan is the skin's defense mechanism against damaging sun rays; an attempt to protect the lower layers of your skin. Every single time.

A "base tan" cannot be considered adequate protection from further sun damage or burning. It is considered equivalent to a sun protection factor 3-4. This is equally true for tanning beds.

Remember those aging rays? Guess what tanning beds utilize... How do UVA rays age the skin? When the skin becomes inflamed, it produces enzymes called proteases that damage collagen (responsible for skin strength), elastin (responsible for the skin's elasticity) and hyaluronic acid (responsible for hydration and plumpness of the skin). Over time, this will manifest itself in premature aging: wrinkles, sagging, and leathery skin.

The "tale of tanning" needs to be seen as outdated. Its association with status and health was only popularized in the beginning of the last century and we have to recognize it is wrong and dangerous.

So, no fun in the sun?

Be sun safe and sun smart. Cover up, make it a habit to apply SPF every morning, stay out of the sun when it is strongest (between 10 am and 2 pm), re-apply. Stay tuned for more sun myths to be debunked ;)


​© 2016 by Julie Schwetlick