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What You Should Know Before You Decide To Tan

What You Should Know Before You Decide To Tan


Researchers, dermatologists, physicians and surgeons all agree that tanning is harmful to your health. Despite this people continue to lie out in the sun or hit the local tanning salon. But before you head off to the beach, remember that protecting your skin is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and appearance.

Preventing Skin Damage

Prevention is a simple task. Avoid exposure to high intensity UVA and UVB rays – this means stay away from tanning beds. If you do decide to use tanning beds, wear protective goggles.

While outdoors:

  • Avoid stronger rays between the hours of 10am and 4pm.
  • Include a sunscreen (SPF of 15 or greater) in your daily skin care regimen.
  • Wear protective gear (such as sunglasses) with a UV label.
  • Wear wide-rimmed hats and a loose, long sleeved t-shirt while at the pool or beach. There are also clothing companies that offer special UV protective clothing.

The Different Types of Skin Cancer

Excluding melanoma, the most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Though these rarely spread throughout the body, they are considered serious.

Melanoma forms from melanocytes. These cells keep producing melanin, so when melanoma appears it is usually dark brown spots. It is highly curable if found and treated early, but it is a very serious form of skin cancer.

Forms of benign tumors such as keratosis can also appear on your skin. These are usually not serious but should be monitored because they can lead to other forms of skin cancer. Almost all types of skin cancer can be prevented by not exposing yourself to UVA and UVB rays.

UVA and UVB Rays – What’s the Difference?

UVB rays commonly are described as the rays that burn while UVA rays or “tanning rays” are described as the rays that penetrate deep beneath the surface. If tanning salons state that they use the “safe rays” or the “rays that don’t burn,” keep in mind that both rays are harmful and both rays burn. UVB burns the surface and UVA burns deeper.

Are Sunless Tanning Lotions and Sprays Safe?

Many experts believe that sunless tanning is perfectly safe. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, sunless tanners do not cause cancer. Most sunless tanners contain an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. DHA is derived from sugar and is what makes an apple turn brown. Just like an apple, DHA reacts to the outer layer of skin, turning it brown.

What Government Agencies Say about Tanning Beds

Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourage people to avoid the use of tanning beds and sun lamps. This doesn’t mean they are illegal, it just means they are regulated. There are certain standards tanning bed salons must abide by. For more information, visit the FDA’s website.

Another federal agency that monitors tanning beds is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which investigates tanning bed advertisements that are misleading. When appropriate, they do take action. The FTC’s website has a wealth of information on false claims.

Weighing In

More information is written every day about the dangers of tanning. There are articles in magazines about women in their late 20s and early 30s who are being diagnosed with serious forms of skin cancer. Educate yourself with facts, think about your future, go with sunless tanning, put on a wide rimmed hat, wear big shades with UV protection, wear sunscreens, and don’t be afraid to be pale.

For more information on skin cancer, refer to the following websites:

The American Cancer Society

The Skin Cancer Foundation –

Food and Drug Administration –

Melissa Schweigard is a Licensed Aesthetician at Bella Vita Day Spa in Signal Mountain, TN. For more information on sunless tanning and other spa treatments, visit

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