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‘A Heathy Tan’; Is tanning bad for you? How sun bathing and sun bed damages your skin

We have all heard comments or even thought ourself that we look better and more healthy with a bit of colour on us. But in reality there is no such thing as a ‘healthy tan’.

This golden pigmentation that we see after a session on a sun-bed or a day in the sun is actually our body realising it needs to protect itself from damage from UV rays.

Why do we need to wear SPF?

The damage that UV light does to the skin goes way beyond the initial redness or burn that we often think is the main thing we are trying to avoid and the main reason we SPF. Whilst burning in itself is known to be a big risk factor in developing skin cancer in the future; the 5th  highest cancer in the uk, damage happens at many levels and can increase risks way before we burn.

How does UV age skin?

The statistic that over 80% of signs of skin aging are known to be due to sun exposure alone essentially illustrates the damage UV does to the skin. UV exposure breaks down collagen and structural proteins in the skin; leading to lines and wrinkles, causes deep deposition of pigmentation; leading to sun spots and uneven tone, and damages DNA which can lead to medical skin conditions and ultimately cancer.

Why are sun beds bad?

Sun beds aim to trigger this protective mechanism of tanning in our skin by emitting high levels of UV, much higher than what is found in sun light, making even just a few minutes on a sun bed as bad as a whole day on the beach. Older sunbeds emitted higher levels of UV-A light, which goes deep into the skin and really damages skin on all levels, but as we now know, even UV-B produces skin damage that increases our risk of cancer, making the more modern UV-B sun beds as bad.

Will SPF stop wrinkles and skin damage?

Applying SPF is the main anti-aging treatment. Whilst regular daily use, and reapplication, will certainly pay dividends years down the line, applying even a high factor broad spectrum SPF prior to going on a sun bed won’t do much to reduce the damaging effects. SPF is given factor rating by testing how long the product increased time until you burn in normal sunlight. As we know, the light emitted from sunbeds is incredibly intense compared to natural light, so the protection your sunscreen gives your skin will be minimal.

What is a safe way to tan?

I always ask my patients why they feel they need the bronzed colour. Is it because it evens out their complexion, is it because it makes their skin look dewy or smooth, is it because breakouts appear less or dermatitis settles? I then ask; if there was a safe and healthy way to achieve these skin goals without causing lifelong and potentially life changing and even life threatening damage to your skin, we would take it? And we all would, right?! Nobody wants to look like a bronzed goddess for couple of year and end up looking twice their age and risking cancer in the future!

How to get glowing and healthy skin

So, my advice would be let's get your skin looking so good that you don’t feel you need the tan. There are so many ways to do this! Ways that also give us the energy boost and confidence lift that soaking up rays can. From understanding how your lifestyle and diet impact your skin, to investing in high quality targeted skincare or treatments there is something to suit everyone.


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