Let’s face it — we’re all after that post-beach day glow. Despite being constantly nagged by your dermatologist (and us) about the importance of SPF, it might be tempting to skip the sunscreen for a few hours to get some color in your skin. The solution to getting that bronzed complexion without sun damage? Self-tanner! This easy fix can replace hours roasting in the sun and spare your skin all of the UV damage. We’re here to help you self tan the right way, with advice from resident expert, Dr. Lee!
Why is tanning dangerous?
When your skin is exposed to the sun, UV rays trigger melanin production. Melanin is the pigment that creates our skin tone, and the more we have, the darker our skin is. While melanin acts as a natural sunscreen to protect our skin, melanin-production is a defense mechanism that occurs when the skin has already been damaged. UVA rays, which penetrate more deeply than UVB rays, are especially dangerous. When UVA light reaches our epidermis, it damages the basal and squamous cells (called keratinocytes) in the skin’s basal layer. This is where most skin cancers occur, and damage from UVA rays is known to initiate the development of those cancers. It also breaks down your skin’s natural collagen, which supports the structure of the skin, leading to fine lines and wrinkles.
“If you have skin cancer at 55 years old, it is not because of the sun you had last month at the beach, it’s because of the cumulative sun exposure and subsequent damage that has appeared now, due to the sun you had 10, 20, 30 years ago! So young people may not think of the future, and think they look and feel better with a tan, but in actuality you may regret those tans when you are 20-30 years older,” says Dr. Lee.
Why is self-tanning safer?
Most self-tanning products contain dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, which temporarily darkens skin by forming melanoidins in the top layer of your skin. Melanoidins are a color additive often derived from plants and are FDA approved for tanning purposes. DHA is not toxic in low concentrations and is only dangerous if ingested or inhaled. Most importantly, self-tanning allows you to skip the sun damage associated with tanning.
Do's and Don'ts of Self-Tanning
Do pair your self-tanner with sunscreen. Opting for tanning products rather than sun-tanning is a step in the right direction, but you still need to protect yourself from UV rays. Dual Defender SPF 30 is a great oil-free and lightweight moisturizer that is easily absorbed into the skin.
Don’t inhale or ingest self-tanning products. If you’re getting a spray tan, protect your mouth eyes and nose to avoid any inhalation. Be careful when applying products around open wounds or broken skin, as DHA is only safe for external application to the skin. This means NO shaving right before applying self-tanner! Shaving can open pores and create tiny cuts that self-tanner can seep into.
Do exfoliate before and after applying self-tanner. Some formulations of self-tanning lotions can clog pores and cause breakouts. Using an exfoliating scrub like SLMD’s Glycolic Acid Body Scrub, which is loaded with eco-friendly scrubbing beads and 10% Glycolic Acid that can help prep the skin to absorb self-tanner evenly and can safely remove it while cleansing pores to prevent irritation.
Don’t use tanning beds. Tanning beds are actually more dangerous than sun tanning. The UV rays used are more potent, which increases the risk of skin cancer and premature aging. Tanning beds have been linked to various types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, which is not life threatening but does require surgical removal.
We get it — you look and feel better when you’re tan. But that fleeting confidence-boost pales in comparison to the long-term consequences of sun tanning. Self-tanning is an easy alternative to get that beachy glow without all the risks associated with UV exposure!