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The Science of Tanning

Posted on 08 July 2015

It’s time to break the silence. Tans are bad for you. Yes, we know they’re sexy, but that doesn’t make them healthy. Arguments have been made in the past that tanning from sunlight is the truly dangerous activity, and that tanning salons provide a healthy alternative to the sun’s harmful UV Rays. It should not come as a surprise that the proponents of these arguments are primarily those financially invested in the 3-billion dollar-a-year studio tanning industry. These proponents have also created the myth that tanning is not only safe, but is actually a form of skincare treatment that helps combat pimples and other outbreaks. As your ally in the tough battle to keep your skin both sparkling and safe, Evologie is here to debunk the mystery that is hurting your clear, healthy skin.

In actuality, both forms of UV tanning, natural and ‘manufactured,’ are harmful to your skin and overall health.

My Skin Is Mutating…Awesome!

Have you ever stopped and thought that it might be a bad thing that your skin is changing colors when you get a tan? Probably not, and you’re not alone. Since tans have been normalized as a method of increasing physical appeal, people never think past whether or not they “got good color today.” Tanning is assumed to be healthy because it is a culturally accepted practice. If your skin was changing yellow, as it does with certain types of cancers and bile diseases, you’d become incredibly worried and see a doctor. The same if you developed an abnormal rash, red patch of skin, or the chicken pox. All of these above forms of skin hyperpigmentation (discoloring) not only cause concern for people, but also come with accompanying feelings of ailing health. Tanning is no different, as your skin experiences hyperpigmentation and is sensitive to the touch, often producing a painful burning sensation on contact. The reality is that your skin changing colors during tanning is the result of a defensive maneuver being taken against the damaging UV rays it is being exposed to. Melanin is the chemical that rushes to aid your sizzling epidermis, giving it its temporarily darkened or reddened hue.

Ok Science, Answer This: When I tan my breakouts do get better.

This may appear to be true, but it is only an appearance. Since tans darken your skin, it makes any kind of imperfection or blemish blend. Red stands out far more visibly on a white backdrop than on a crispy brown surface. Tanning may provide a temporary optical illusion, but as time goes on it will only worsen your problems. The UV Rays will more realistically dry your skin of their much needed oils, causing the body to create more. When this happens the body has a tendency to overcompensate for the losses, creating an excess of oils which only worsens your breakouts. On top of this negative effect of tanning, it also can give you premature wrinkles and contributes heavily to skin cancers such as melanoma.

Well Played, Science, but I still want my tan. How can I do it safely?

It is important to first understand that given the nature of tanning, as explained above, it is never a “safe” process. It happens inherently as a form of protection. With that being said, there are ways to get a nice shade without putting yourself in any overwhelming danger.

The two keys to safely maneuvering the tanning circle are sunscreen and limited exposure, and they are essential when having a long day at the beach. Tanning beds prove a tricky option because they exist for providing tans, and we are not advocating for their intentional acquisition. Tans are things that should be acquired by happenstance along with a nice dose of Vitamin D from the sun. If you really find yourself in need of a darker base layer, however, there are many makeup products, known as Bronzers, which can give you what you’re looking for.

Lastly, we just want to address that while everyone technically “tans” as it relates to bodily functions, we know that it is primarily a fashion concern of peoples with lighter skin tones. This is an important issue that has been raised regarding cultural norms and we encourage every single person who reads this article to get acquainted with them. The newly introduced iPhone Emojis with differing skin colors is a great example of where to start. While the generalizations made about tanning practices made above do not hold true for all peoples, the information regarding its health effects is universally true. We hope that everyone is able to put this new knowledge to use in maintaining a healthy lifestyle with clear, healthy skin!

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