Experts say this is safe way to get a tan

Experts say this is safe way to get a tan

Achieving a summery glow year-round can lead people to try all sorts of methods, sometimes even harming their skin in the process. However, there are ways to stay safe and achieve a tanned look, experts say.

Tanning is a defense mechanism our bodies use when skin cells are damaged by ultraviolet light (UV), said Dr. Katherine Garrity, a dermatologist at Aurora Medical Center in Summit. This UV damage can occur from both exposure to the sun and from devices like a tanning bed. UV exposure accelerates aging, creating wrinkles, discoloration, broken blood vessels and a leathery texture of the skin. But beyond just aesthetic consequences, exposure to UV light can also cause cancer.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is not properly using sunscreen to prevent sunburn or using a tanning bed to get a “base tan.” Many people feel a false sense of confidence with a “base tan” and end up exposing their skin to longer period of intense sunlight, leading to burns, experts say.

“Many people believe that using a tanning bed to get a base tan will prevent sunburn. This is absolutely a myth,” said Dr. Garrity. “If you have a base tan, you can still burn.”

Furthermore, using a tanning bed once increases your risk of melanoma by 20%, and women who tan indoors before they turn 30 are six times more likely to get melanoma, Dr. Garrity said. However, not all hope is lost for those looking to get a sun-kissed look.

Sunless tanners, whether a spray, lotion, cream, mousse gel or drops to add to lotion, are a great way to achieve the desired results and are even safe during pregnancy, Dr. Garrity said. These products contain a color additive that reacts with the dead cells in the skin’s surface to temporarily darken the skin and simulate a tan. Over-the-counter injections, pills or drops taken by mouth are not recommended. Before using one, be sure to exfoliate and moisturize daily after application. Using a booster, like a daily lotion with a sunless tanner can help maintain the glow.

If your skin shows irritation or you develop a rash, you should stop using it. Try testing a small spot before applying it to large areas of skin, she said.

These sunless tanners will not protect against UV rays, so be sure to pair it with a sunscreen that is water resistant, broad-spectrum and at least an SPF 30 on a vacation for protection against UV light. Proper sunscreen usage also includes reapplication after two hours or after sweating, swimming or toweling off, and sunscreen is recommended by dermatologists to all people, no matter their skin color.

“There are many choices you can make when it comes to achieving a tan or a ‘glow’ but choosing to protect yourself from sun damage is the most important one,” Dr. Garrity said.

Now is the perfect time to make an appointment with a primary care physician. Whether you live in Illinois or Wisconsin, it’s easy to find a doctor near you. 

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