self tanner
Beauty & Style

How to Tan Safely

It’s been oh-so-tempting to soak up the rays during these summer months to achieve that “healthy” tanned look. But facts don’t lie: There’s no such thing as a safe or healthy tan, whether from the sun itself or from indoor tanning.

Each time we tan or burn, the DNA in our skin is damaged – and over time, this damage increases the risk of developing skin cancer. About 1 in 5 Americans will get skin cancer by age 70, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, and most cases are associated with exposure to natural sunlight, indoor tanning, or a combination of both.Nearly 100,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, every year, according to the American Cancer Society. But most of these cases would be preventable if we skipped tanning and achieved our “healthy glow” through safer cosmetic techniques instead.Skin damage starts with your first tan and builds up as you spend more time in the sun or using tanning beds. Not only can it lead to skin cancer, but UV exposure can also speed skin aging with the appearance of wrinkles, dark spots, and weathered skin. None of the consequences are good, and they might even be deadly.

Try these safer tanning techniques 

 Even when we know the truth about tanning, we still may want a tanned look. Several readily available products or techniques can help us get it safely at any time of year, Dr. Pratt says. These include:

  • Bronzers or makeup:Want your face and upper chest to glow? Bronzers and similar makeup can offer near-instant gratification. Use a fluffy brush to apply these cosmetic products to wherever the sun would naturally hit your skin – the nose, cheeks, forehead and cheeks. Bronzer is wonderfully easy to apply, but the only downside is that it may wear off even before you wash it off.
  • Self-tanner:This convenient, home-applied product has exploded in use over the last decade, with hundreds of options available on store shelves and online. Using a spray bottle or pump, you can apply self-tanner to whichever parts of your body you’re showing off, customizing it to your needs. Self-tanner also lasts at least several days, on average, so you don’t need to keep re-applying it. It may take some practice, but using self-tanner is one of the least expensive and most effective ways to fake an amazing tan.
  • Spray tan booth:For about $25, you can get a fake tan at a commercial spray tanning booth, which encloses you in a confined space and unleashes spray tan mist all over your body (minus your hair, which is covered by a shower cap). You’ll apply lotion or cream to dry areas like your knees, feet, and elbows to prevent tanner from looking unnaturally dark in these areas, but otherwise, spray tans can offer fairly even coverage. It’s personal preference, but some people would rather use self-tanner in their homes, while others want the job done for them elsewhere. I’m not a fan of spray tan booths and I suggest avoiding them because of the potential of inhaling chemicals from dyes.
  • Professional spray tan:The priciest option (running up to $100 per session), professional spray tans are available at many spas or tanning salons. This technique can also be more effective than a spray tan booth at applying tanner without creating streaks or blotchy areas on your skin. Some people swear by professional spray tans, especially if they’re about to attend a special event where they really want that healthy-looking glow. These types of tans don’t last longer than regular spray tans or self-tanner, but you do feel pampered getting one.

Whichever cosmetic method you choose to achieve a tanned look, you can feel satisfied you’re not damaging your skin or perhaps even risking your life. It takes only one blistering sunburn before adulthood to nearly double your risk of melanoma later in life, and anyone who tries to tell you now that indoor tanning is safer is mistaken.

Loretta Pratt, MDis board-certified in internal medicine and dermatology in practice with Advanced Dermatology P.C., in Chadds Ford, PA.  
Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) is one of the leading dermatology centers in the nation, offering highly experienced physicians in the fields of cosmetic and laser dermatology as well as plastic surgery and state-of-the-art medical technologies.   

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