Let’s face it – most people look better with a tan. I know I do (at least I think I do). You know how dark clothes make you look thinner? Well, I think dark skin has the same effect.
I miss those days of not caring about my skin and getting as brown as wood from just playing outdoors. But now I’m a fanatic about covering my face. My daily moisturizer has a 30 SPF and when I sit by the pool or on the beach I wear a hat, sunglasses and usually sit under an umbrella. And I try to remember to reapply lotion every few hours. And you should too.
According dermatologist Casey Gallagher, MD, sun exposure, the
predominant source of ultraviolet radiation, is never healthy. “Based on recent reports, the International Agency for Cancer Research has elevated both ultraviolet radiation and tanning beds, which emit ultraviolet rays, to the highest level of cancer-causing agents,” Dr. Gallagher warns.
He says that while some people think of the sun as a good source of Vitamin D production, it’s much safer to take supplements. And when it comes to over the counter tanning products or spray tans — they pose no threats, unless you have an allergy to one of the ingredients.
Or an aversion to the smell. All sunless tanning products are made with DHA (dihydroxyacetone), which temporarily stains the skin surface and fades like a suntan does as skin cells are shed naturally. And they all have that stinky tanning solution smell, although some do a better job of masking it than others.
A tan, whether you get it on the beach, in a bed, or through incidental exposure, is bad news, any way you acquire it. Tans are caused by harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning lamps, and if you have one, you’ve sustained skin cell damage.
No matter what you may hear at tanning salons, the cumulative damage caused by UV radiation can lead to premature skin aging (wrinkles, lax skin, brown spots, and more), as well as skin cancer. In fact, indoor ultraviolet (UV) tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.
Skin Cancer Kills
Tanning beds might as well be coffins. Oncologists now believe they are to blame for the alarming spike among young women in lethal melanoma cases—the second most common cancer in adults under 30. A big part of the problem: Many women think catching indoor rays is a harmless—or worse, healthy—part of their beauty routine
It was Tricia Thompson’s hairstylist who first spotted a dark brown mole behind her ear. “I didn’t think much of it,” says Tricia, who was 32 at the time. “I went to the dermatologist and she froze it off.” But a year later, the same hairstylist saw that the mole had grown back, and this time it was a greenish-blue color.Tricia made an appointment with a different dermatologist, who took a biopsy of the mole. It was melanoma, the most serious of all skin cancers. Best possible scenario: Tricia would end up with a disfiguring scar. Worst case: The melanoma would kill her.
“I worked at an indoor tanning salon in high school and college,” she says. “I tanned an average of two or three times a week from the time I was about 14 until I was 21. I remember there was a waiver everyone had to sign, but that was just protocol. Nobody ever sat down to talk about the dangers of indoor tanning so I didn’t really think about them.
“And then I was 34, thinking, Who’s going to take care of my dog? Should I sell my house so my family doesn’t have to worry about things if I don’t make it through this?”Tricia had surgery to remove the melanoma—and the top quarter of her ear—a couple of weeks after her diagnosis. Her doctor did reconstructive surgery to replace the part of her ear he had to remove, but at her six-month follow-up appointment, the melanoma had returned. She had to have another surgery, this time to remove about a third of her earlobe.Becky Kocon was just 23 when she was diagnosed with melanoma after she spotted an irregular mole behind her knee. “I started going to tanning salons with my mom when I was 17,” says Becky, who’s now 27. “When I got to college, I’d go two or three times a week. I knew tanning wasn’t good for me, but I didn’t think I’d get cancer. At least not in my twenties.”
According to a recent Mayo Clinic study, the incidence of melanoma has increased eightfold among women ages 18 to 39 since 1970. “Melanoma is a new epidemic in young women,” says Jerry Brewer, M.D., a Mayo Clinic dermatologic surgeon and author of the study, who admits even he was shocked by these findings. “Other studies have shown an increase, but this study found melanoma occurring in women 705 percent more often. It’s astounding.”
The usual suspects are partly to blame for the scary rise in this deadly disease among twenty-and thirty-something women, including the disappearing ozone layer and the fact that we’re still getting sunburns, even though we should know better. (In fact, recent research found that half of all adults and 66 percent of whites ages 18 to 29 report they had at least one sunburn in the past year.) But because these factors affect women and men alike, and the rise in melanoma diagnoses are in young women, doctors are starting to believe indoor tanning—which can raise a person’s risk for melanoma 75 percent—is a key reason the disease has become an epidemic.
“It’s significant that melanoma is on the rise in the same group of people who use indoor tanning beds more than anyone else,” says Deborah Sarnoff, M.D., a dermatologist in Manhattan and Greenvale, New York, and senior vice president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. The numbers are striking: Thirty-two percent of white women ages 18 to 21 and 30 percent of white women ages 22 to 25 say they use indoor tanning beds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And a 2012 survey found the same has been true for almost 40 percent of college students.
“If we can change the behavior of young women and get them to stop tanning, the curve of the incidence of melanoma would change,” says Brewer.
Summer’s here and many people who concerned about the health risks of tanning are turning their backs on the sun and tanning beds and picking up a bottle of self tanning lotion. Whether you’re using the Moisture Tan Self Tanner or the Self Tanner with Bronzer, follow these simple self tanner tips to a perfect, glowing, fake bake tan.
The Best Way to Apply Sunless Tanner
1. Take a shower or bath. While you are in there do the following:
Exfoliate. (Recommended but not necessary) The chemicals in self tanner react with amino acids in the upper layers of your skin. By removing the uppermost layer (which would’ve sloughed off on its own soon anyway) you’re ensuring that the tan develops in a fresh layer that’s going to be around longer. Also dry skin tends to absorb more color, increasing the likelihood of an uneven tan. Exfoliating will scrub off that dry skin. Just be sure to exfoliate thoroughly, because the spots you miss will tan differently.
Shave. This will make for a smoother tan, and it’s better to do before you apply self tanner rather than after. If you shave after the application, you risk creating splotches. If, however, you have sensitive skin you may want to avoid shaving before you apply the self tanner, or else your skin will get irritated.
2. Dry Off. It’s important that while you’re applying self tanner, your skin is completely dry. If you’re going to be in the bathroom, wait for any humidity from the shower or bath to subside. Make sure it’s cool enough wherever you are so that you don’t sweat for the next few hours.
3. Do some Prep Work. Massaging lotion into trouble spots (knees, elbows, feet hands, knuckles) before applying tanner may help to keep those spots from getting too dark.
4. Ready set apply. Use rubber gloves or if no gloves are used wash hands every five minutes including scrubbing under nails. Spread the tanner over your skin in circular motions, making sure not to miss any spots.
Around the feet spread the tanner from your legs onto your ankles and the tops of your feet, and use as little as possible in this area. Don’t apply any to your toes, heels, or sides of your feet.
Apply the tanner sparingly on your face and neck because that skin will darken easily. Don’t forget behind your ears and the back of your neck, especially if you have short hair.
While most people don’t have tanned underarms, avoiding this area can be difficult, so it’s better to apply self tanner there and lightly wipe with a damp washcloth about five minutes later.
5. Lighten the Trouble spots. After you’re done with the tanner, apply regular lotion to the tops of your feet and blend into your ankle, sides of feet, and toes. Apply a small amount to your knees, especially just below the knee. Do the same thing to your elbows, especially the part that puckers when your arm is straight. Use a lot of lotion on your hands, and blend into your wrist. Rub your belly button with a cotton swab diped in lotion. This will prevent these spots from getting too dark.
6. Wait. Avoid contact with anything or anyone for the first 10 minutes. Don’t get dressed until dry (5-15 min) If that’s not convenient, put on loose articles of clothing. Avoid contact with water or doing anything that’ll make you sweat for the first 2 hours. Try to wait 8 hours before showering or bathing again.
Self Tanner Tips
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