Is suntanning good for you?

From a young age, we are flooded with images of models with sunkissed skin and a “healthy” glow. We then try to imitate them by lathering ourselves with suntanning lotion and lying under the sun. But is this actually good for your skin? Or are we condemning our future selves to sun damage?

Is there such a thing as a “healthy” suntan?

When your skin changes colour, it is actually a response to DNA damage. So when the UV rays penetrate your skin, the pigment production goes into overdrive so it can act as a protective shield. So a tan is a result of the darkening of the melanin’s natural colourant.This damage can aid in the development of skin cancer and also accelerate skin ageing.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. A tan is not unhealthy as long as it’s achieved slowly and gradually. This means you shouldn’t purposely burn your skin in the hopes that it will turn into a tan. Getting a spot of sun is also one of the few ways we can get vitamin D.

How then should you protect your skin?

Apply lots of sunscreen

Sure sunscreen can be expensive, but it is worth it as you’ll be protecting your skin from the sun. When looking to buy some sun protection make sure that it is SPF of at least 30 and water resistant. Before you even step outside the house, make sure that you apply it all over your exposed skin – on your ears, neck, feet, etc. Then reapply it every hour, or after you go swimming.

Know your skin tone

The lighter you are, the greater chance you have of burning your skin. If you are a fair-skin type then you should apply sunscreen as often as 30 minutes, using SPF 40 or 50 sunscreen. Even if you have a darker skin tone, this doesn’t mean that you should skimp out of the sunscreen. Make sure that you are applying it regularly so that you don’t accidentally burn yourself.

Avoid peak hours

No matter what your skin tone, you should try and steer clear of peak hours under the sun. The sun will be at it’s strongest and most direct between 10 am and 2 pm. But if you really want to be in the sun during these times, make sure that you are slathered in sunscreen and apply it as regularly as possible.

Even if you want to achieve a healthy glow over time, the best thing you can do is to apply lots of sunscreen. So make sure that you are fully protected next time you spend time by the pool or by the beach.

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