Before you sprawl in the sun, check out the truth about tanning.
What's in the sun?
The sun gives off powerful radiation waves, including different kinds of ultraviolet rays. Here are the two that should concern you:
- UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin layer, causing premature ageing and increasing the risk of skin cancer.
- UVB rays burn the surface of the skin, causing it to tan and burn.
What's in a tan?
A substance called melanin gives the skin colour and provides some natural protection against the sun's UV rays. In sunshine, melanin builds up and the skin becomes darker. Be warned, however, melanin takes time to build up a protective layer on the surface of the skin. Stripping off the moment the sun appears means the skin is unprepared, and quickly burns. It's true that people with naturally dark skin have high levels of the melanin pigment, but no one is completely immune from burning.
What's in a sunburn?
A sunburn is basically an inflammation of the skin cells, as a result of exposure to the sun (also sun lamps). The skin becomes red, painful and sometimes blistered. Experts reckon that one severe burning session before the age of 15 can double the risk of skin cancer.
So how how do I protect myself?
In short, by having some respect for the sun. Always use a cream, block or lotion with a Sun Protection Factor (or SPF). This is basically a filter system designed to block out harmful UV rays and stop you from burning too quickly.
Research carried out by Restoration of Appearance and Function Trust (RAFT) warns that rubbing sun cream deeply into the skin dramatically cuts the protection against dangerous rays. They also warn it can actually increase the risk of damage because the cream still stops the skin from burning, encouraging sunbathers to stay in the sun for longer. For best protection they recommend using a broad spectrum sunscreen with maximum UVA protection, and limiting your time in the sun to short periods.
What's the right SPF for me?
A high one. Experts actually recommend using nothing less than SPF15. Rub it on before going out in the sun and repeat the process throughout the day. If you're planning on going for a dip be sure that you're using a water resistant sun cream because sunlight actually increases in strength as it passes through water. Protecting yourself from the sun doesnt have to be a sweat. Like safer sex, if you take the right precautions then you won't risk any regrets.
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