What a Tan Really Means for Your Skin

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The sun is out, and we are all rejoicing over the beautiful weather — well, maybe not our skin. Our skin protects us from a lot of things, but it’s also very delicate at the same time. It’s extremely important that we take care of our skin now so we don’t have problems later. Sure, there are smaller cosmetic issues — such as wrinkles, sagging, or dark spots — but sun damage can also cause DNA mutation that can contribute to skin cancer.

So how does this happen? What is really happening to your skin when you get a tan?

When UV rays from the sun hit your skin, your cells start working to protect their vital machinery. The skin cells start to produce a darker pigment on their surface as a sort of shield against damage. So the more pigment that piles up after each exposure, the tanner your skin will look.

Well, it doesn’t always work this efficiently for everyone…. People with fairer complexions aren’t able to create the same amount of pigments, so their defense against UV damage from the sun is much weaker.

No matter if you tan easily or not, it’s very important that you take the necessary precautions and strengthen your natural defenses. I know we’ve all heard the term “base tan,” and it has become rather universally known as a way to protect ourselves from sunburn. However, it is a false notion. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that your base tan is equivalent to about a sunscreen of SPF 3 — quite a big difference from the recommended SPF 30.

SPF 30 can help to protect you against all of the sun damage I’ve mentioned earlier — including both DNA mutations leading to cancer and the weakening of connective fibers in the skin causing wrinkles, sagging, or sunspots. Remember, no matter if you have dark or fair skin, you are still susceptible to skin cancer or sun damage.

When you are out in the sun, stay safe by wearing SPF 30 and reapplying often during prolonged exposure, sweating, or swimming. Cute hats, cover-ups, and hanging out in the shade are also great ways to keep your skin safe. Healthy skin is much more important than a tan!

 

A graduate of SUNY Oneonta with a BS in Biology, and a current Master's of Public Health student at the University at Buffalo. Seanna Pratt is an aspiring writer who hopes to find her home someday in a big city. You can often find her writing in coffee shops or at home binge watching her latest TV obsession. Feel free to ask her anything! Contact: seanna@germmagazine.com

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