You know the phrase “tall, dark, and handsome”? This common phrase shows that everyone loves dark skin, and for those of us that are considered pale, tanning is the best way to achieve that. So we sunbathe and go to the tanning salon to get wonderfully tan skin. But is it safe? Just how does the sun tan your skin and why? Let’s find out!
Scientifically speaking, tanning is the reaction that occurs after excessive sun exposure. The sun doesn’t just emit light and heat. Invisible to the naked eye, the sun rains down a constant stream of ultraviolet radiation. Two types of radiation, UVA and UVB, penetrate our skin down to the lower layers. This radiation interacts with the pigmentation cells called melanocytes.
Melanocytes create melanin, which absorbs the UV rays in order to protect the body. When a person has been overly exposed to this radiation, they become sunburned (aka tanned). Being tanned is essentially your DNA being cooked to the point of mutation. The body then attempts to heal the damage and protect the skin by creating more melanin and sending it into the skin’s cells. This overproduction of melanin is what causes the browning of the skin.
Sure, tanning may brown your skin, but it does much more than that. One of the major changes made to your skin is accelerated aging. UV radiation has the ability to cause dryness and wrinkles. This disaster combination causes the skin to rapidly age, causing younger individuals to suffer from premature aging.
Excessive sun exposure can also mutate the DNA within your skin as previously mentioned. Here’s how it happens. The overexposed skin cells undergo a process called ionizing. During this process, the atoms from within the cells are charged, causing them to rupture. The cells are damaged and end up with deformed DNA. It is this mutation that leads to skin cancer, the most devastating effect of overexposure to UV rays.
Many people believe that if you swap the sun for an indoor tanning bed, then you’re safe from sun damaged skin. This is not true. The harm of tanning does not come from the sun itself. Instead, it comes from the UV radiation it emits, the same radiation used at indoor tanning salons. The bottom line is that it is not safe to tan under any circumstances. Any form of tanning via radiation is harmful. So what can you do to get that sun kissed glow?
Try spray tanning. Spray tans can easily and safely color skin without all of the harmful side effects brought on by ultraviolet radiation. It may only last a few days, but it’s worth it to avoid harming yourself. It’s important to note, however, that spray tans are not for everybody. Speak to your dermatologist about any skin conditions you may have to determine if spray tanning is right for you.