It’s that time of year again… when we start harping on the importance of sun protection. And for good reason- up to 85% of aging is caused by the sun’s rays. Today’s golden tan will become tomorrow’s fine lines, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, hyperpigmentation, and risk of skin cancer.
Sun worshippers, buckle up. We know you love to lie out under the warmth of the sun with a chilled drink in hand, but we can’t let you bronze blindly without telling you the truth about tanning. Keep reading to find out what exposure to the sun and tanning beds do to your skin and whether or not your fling with the sun is something more insidious. Is it possible you’re addicted to tanning?
The sun’s rays are hard at work penetrating your skin. If you think that bronzed glow is just a little kiss from the sun, think again. While you tan, your body is forced to produce more melanin; this is a protective mechanism designed to shield the skin from additional exposure. Your body views your tan as a sign of damage (which it is) and it’s forced to work harder to keep your skin safe.
Fine lines, wrinkles, and other (not) fun facts about aging:
As we age, Collagen and Elastin fibers in the skin weaken, leading to a loss of firmness and less-defined skin structure. Tanning accelerates this process, causing fine lines and wrinkles to appear well before they would have if your repeated sun exposure never happened.
The 411 on ultraviolet rays:
Ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun are known to cause aging and burning. They’re invisible and penetrate the surface of the skin, causing damage that can lead to skin cancer.
- UVA Rays have a longer wavelength and account for the aging effects of the sun.
- UVB Rays are shorter in length and cause painful sunburns at the epidermal layer.
It’s worth noting that some prescription medications and topical products are photosensitizers that cause the skin to become extra sensitive. For example, antiobiotics or retinol products do not mix well with a long day at the beach. This can make the skin more prone to burns, allergic reactions, and hyperpigmentation (dark spots).
Still unsure whether or not you’re addicted to tanning? Here are a few behavioral markers:
- You go tanning because of the “feel good” boost of endorphins;
- Family and friends have recommended you cut back on tanning;
- You tan indoors and outdoors regularly;
- You desire more exposure to UV rays and have difficulty controlling the urge to tan;
- You ignore the dangers of tanning, which include premature aging and skin cancer;
- Even if you’re tight with money, you still find a way to tan; and
- Although you have a lot of color from the sun or tanning booths, you still feel too light.
There are a number of healthier options for getting the color you desire minus the health risks. Sunless tanning products are created with DHA, which works by reacting with the proteins on the skin’s surface by turning them darker. With the variety of sunless tanning options on the market, there’s really no need to continue on the path to skin destruction.
If you feel you have an obsession with tanning and want to incorporate more sun safe habits, be sure to wear a broad spectrum sunscreen daily, especially during the peak hours of 10 AM and 3 PM. Remember to apply your sun protection before dressing to avoid missing spots around straps and jewelry. To take extra precaution, incorporate protective clothing, such as hats, sunglasses, scarves, and long pants and sleeves. UV rays can be even stronger through glass, so keep your skin shielded even in the car and when sitting by windows. For a true love affair with your skin, treat it well, and break up with damaging behaviors like tanning.