Now that summer’s over and we’re moving toward the chillier winter months, you might be wondering what you can do to maintain your summery glow all year long.
Maybe you avoid spending too much time in the sun because you know its one of the leading causes of wrinkles and other signs of aging. Perhaps you figure going to a tanning bed is a safer way to get a “healthy tan.”
Is it? Understanding what happens to your skin as you tan might make you think twice about spending time in a tanning bed. Read on to learn more about tanning and about what you can do to protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet rays.
What Happens When You Tan?
Why does your skin turn a shade or two darker when you spend time out in the sun or under a tanning bed? Tanning is actually your skin’s attempt to protect itself from the sun’s UV rays.
Everyone, even the palest of people, has melanin, a type of pigment, in their skin. After sun exposure or exposure to ultraviolet light, your skin usually makes more melanin. The extra pigment makes your skin darker. It’s also the skin’s attempt to create a shield against UV rays and to keep your skin from burning.
How your skin responds to the increased melanin depends on your complexion. If you’re fair, you might notice that your skin typically turns red after spending time out in the sun. After a few days, the redness might fade, leaving a darker skin color. If you have a darker complexion, the increased melanin production will most likely make your skin turn a darker brown right away.
What UV Rays Do to Your Skin
When you tan, your skin is responding to both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are the ones that contribute to wrinkles and other signs of aging. UVB rays are the ones that burn your skin.
Exposure to UVA rays often causes an immediate change in your skin’s appearance. The effects of UVB rays typically show up a few days after the exposure.
UV rays do more than encourage the production of additional skin pigment, though. They also increase your risk of developing skin cancer, including melanoma.
UV rays can increase skin cancer risk in a couple of ways. First, they damage the DNA in your skin cells, making it more likely for certain cells to grow and divide abnormally. Second, ongoing UV exposure decreases the effectiveness of your body’s immune functions. When your immune system isn’t working at its best, it has difficulty destroying abnormal cells that can lead to cancer.
The Truth About Tanning Beds
There’s a common misconception that tanning beds offer a safe alternative to spending time in the sun. That misconception might stem from the fact that you have some level of control over the amount of UV exposure you get under a tanning bed.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the UV light used in most tanning beds is often even more intense and harmful than the UV from natural sunlight. Tanning beds aren’t safe under any circumstances!
Does Getting a “Base Tan” Protect You From Further Damage?
Another common misconception about tanning is that getting that initial tan, often called a base tan, will help protect your skin from further damage. The reality is that the melanin changes that occur when you get a base tan are causing damage to your skin. Even after you’ve achieved a base tan, your skin can still burn, you can still see signs of aging, and your skin cancer risk doesn’t drop.
Is There a Safe Way to Tan?
Whether you love to lie out in the sun or spend some time in a tanning bed, the truth is that neither is safe for your skin.
If you want to get a sun-kissed glow without the risks, there are safer options. Spray tans, for example, don’t expose you to any UV rays. Modern spray tans produce natural-looking results, so you don’t have to worry about unevenness or looking orange and fake.
You can also try to use a sunless tanning product at home, but keep in mind that doing so might involve a learning curve. You might see unsightly streaks or patchiness if you’re not used to using the products.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Skin
The best way to protect your skin from sun damage or from damage caused by tanning beds is to minimize the time you spend in the sun and to skip tanning beds entirely. It’s a good idea to wear sunscreen every day, even when it’s cloudy or you don’t plan on spending a lot of time outdoors.
Can You Reverse the Damage Caused by Too Much UV Exposure?
If you’ve noticed changes in your skin that you think might be due to aging and excess sun exposure, there are ways to repair some of the damage. Fraxel and other laser skin resurfacing treatments can remove sun-damaged skin cells. These treatments encourage the production of healthy, new cells. They can help minimize dark spots caused by sun exposure and smooth away fine lines and wrinkles.
Mirror Mirror Beauty Boutique in Houston, TX offers Fraxel and other laser treatments to help your skin look its best. If you’re trying to break a tanning habit and minimize your sun exposure, we can also help you choose the right skincare products to protect your skin and keep it looking refreshed. To learn more, call 281-810-9083 to schedule a consultation today.