Is There Such A Thing As A Healthy Tan?

Healthy Living: Lifestyle

By: // March 26, 2015


Is a suntan ever a good thing? Sadly, from a health standpoint, no.  Yes, it feels good. Yes, many of us love the look of a sun kissed glow, but we all know the dangers of sun exposure, and the truth is, you don’t have to be lying on the beach to come in harm’s way. Daily life presents many minutes or even hours for your skin to meet those harmful rays. When the winter months are dragging by, we begin wishing for a little color in our cheeks and when the sun does finally emerge, we want to bask in its luscious, warm glory. But every hour one American dies of melanoma. Every year more than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed according to the American Melanoma Foundation (AMF). If you want to stay safe in the sun, let’s explore how you can achieve a golden glow in many other ways.

While In The Sun

Lather Up

Yes, you need sunscreen all the time but when you’re planning to spend some serious time in the sun, it’s time to get serious about SPF. If you just want a little Vitamin D, the daily-recommended allowance can be achieved in about 20 minutes with 80 percent body exposure. Done! If you plan to be longer, an SPF is critical.

According to M.D. John F. Spencer from WebMD, an SPF 15 product blocks about 94 percent of UVB rays; an SPF 30 product blocks 97 percent of UVB rays; and an SPF 45 product blocks about 98 percent of rays. “After that, it just gets silly,” he says.

So if you’re planning to be in the sun, an SPF of 15 (found in many moisturizers and foundations) is good only for the first 15 minutes and guess what? You need to reapply every 15 minutes. SPF 30? Every 30 minutes. Do it! Be a freak about it. Don’t wait to get a little color because you may forget or lose track of time. It’s just not worth it.

And not to make the choices more difficult, but the ingredients in your sunscreen are as important as the SPF.  Every year, the Environmental Working Group does an evaluation of sunscreens on the market and lets you know which brands offer the best protection and safest ingredients. Here is EWG’s latest list. 

Top It Off

Hats are more than just a fashion statement; they are your best protection from wrinkles and sunspots on that gorgeous face of yours. The bigger the brim, the more protection offered. You don’t want to protect your face with SPF foundation and a hat but then end up with a wrinkly, turkey neck. Wider brims will reach out beyond your face and offer additional coverage on your neck and décolletage. Keep in mind baseball caps, though cute, have small brims and do not cover the ears. If you go this route, be sure to apply sunscreen liberally to ears, face and neck. So when it comes to hats, bigger is definitely better.

Layer On

Shoulders are often the first things to burn, so don’t hesitate to slip on a shirt after a while.  I never hit the beach without a long-sleeve, button up light cotton shirt. They look cute left open over your bathing suit, tucked sloppily into shorts or even over a sundress. You can continue to lounge in the sun while slowly adding more coverage. We are quick to slather on the SPF, throw a rash guard and hat on our children while they play, but often forget our own protection. Don’t! Think of these items as your super hero suit and don’t leave yourself defenseless.

Better yet, purchase a couple of pieces of specially designed sun protecting clothing. Made with UPF 50+ protective fabric, companies like Athleta have created entire lines of sun friendly clothing like cover ups, t-shirts and even summer dresses. And did I mention they’re quite stylish and super cute? Look fashionable while playing in the sun and enjoying your favorite outdoor activities.

Girl with Sunscreen on Nose

Is there such a thing as a healthy tan?

To Beat The Winter White

Say NO To Tanning Beds

There is no safe way to use a tanning bed. No, tanning beds do not filter out the harmful rays. And no, you don’t “build a base” by hitting the tanning booth a few times before vacation.  The Skin Cancer Foundation said, “A recent JAMA Dermatology study found that tanning bed use, particularly among young people, is an alarmingly widespread behavior. In the United States, 35 percent of adults and 55 percent of college students have tanned, and the study found there are more than 419,000 new skin cancer cases attributable to indoor tanning each year. Worldwide, there are more skin cancer cases due to indoor tanning than there are lung cancer cases due to smoking.”  There is more risk for skin cancer from tanning beds than the natural golden rays.  Bottom line, no tanning beds ever. You can still get a little color in your skin.

Spray Tanning Has Come A Long Way Baby

I’m not referring to those sticky booths that hose you down from head to toe and leave you looking more orange than bronze. I’m talking a custom spray tan from a trained and experienced technician. There are many new companies out there offering spray tans (some will even come to your house) that will customize a color for your skin. Many of the new solutions are organic, vegan and paraben free. They dry quickly and don’t leave you feeling sticky. They also come scented in delicious tropical flavors like coconut. Another plus, when working with an air brush system, technicians can control the color and apply a little more or less in certain areas. This is a great way to keep color light on the knees, avoid your nails and even add a little contouring here and there. An extra swipe of color under each cheek (and I don’t mean your face) can create the illusion of a little lift. Six pack anyone?

Perform a quick internet search in your area, and you will likely find custom tan salons or mobile tan companies.  There are several where I live in Seattle because we are always looking for ways to fight the gloom. True, custom spray tans will cost more than the booth, ranging from $40-70. Another idea is to host a tanning party. Yep, gather your friends and have a mobile spray tan tech come spray you all down. The more you have, the cheaper it will be per person and they bring their own tent and extractor fan to keep things clean.

Bronzer Is The Bomb

Another great way to add lots of warm color and highlights to your face is with a bronzing pallet. Applying a bronzer across your forehead cheeks and across the top of your nose, will give you a sun kissed look. Take it a step further and add highlighter to other areas to create even more depth. A consultant at your local make-up counter will be happy to dole out a lesson and there are countless You Tube videos offering instruction. Some are quite dramatic and offer ways to contour your face to create higher cheekbones or a slimmer nose. But for sun purposes, a light brush of bronzer can go a long way to helping you feel less winter white and more summer chic!

an attractive woman lying on a beach towel

Be Sun Safe!

Fake It Till You Make It

Tanning from a bottle has also gotten much better. With gels, sprays, mousses, creams and sticks, there’s a plethora of options to choose from. The key is to spend a little more money. You can go to the local drug store and find a few good ones but I suggest the make-up counter at your favorite department store or a specialty cosmetics store like Sephora. Speaking to a cosmetic consultant will go a long way as they recommend the right product for you. They will help you find an application process that is appropriate for your needs and right for your skin. I love my Sephora Tinted Self Tanning Body Spray just to add a hint of color to my legs when I’m donning a skirt or a pair of shorts. Another bronzer that goes on smooth and even and doesn’t get on your clothes is Perfekt. A favorite for quick color on your legs and arms as you head out the door. I also can’t go without a great face tanner. When I’m down in the dumps from too many grey days here in Seattle, a boost in my face color helps me come alive.

Here are my tips to successful and even self tanner application:

  1. Do everything else first. Shave your legs and exfoliate. Pay special attention to elbows, knees and feet, as the tanner will absorb into the dryer areas more.
  2. Prep. Dry off and moisturize. Yes, you heard me, apply a light layer of lotion especially to those aforementioned areas. Dry again.
  3. Pick your potion and begin applying. Start at the bottom and work your way up applying your tanner in a circular motion. Save your arms and hands for last.
  4. Go easy on your face application or buy a separate tanner formulated just for the face.
  5. Wash hands thoroughly while you air dry for about 10 minutes.
  6. Avoid super tight or white clothing just after application unless you don’t mind a little rub-off.
  7. Avoid showering or heavy sweating for the first 6-8 hours.
  8. Oops! Mistakes happen. If you notice a streak in your tan, Allure magazine recommends rubbing a half of a lemon on the area and then buffing with a dry cloth.
  9. Bask in the glow! If you intend to keep up with your color. Exfoliate weekly and apply every few days at first. Once you’ve achieved a nice color, a weekly touch up could do the trick.

Whatever products you choose to get your glow on, be sure and continue to apply a daily SPF. Doctors say it’s common for people to think their newly bronzed skin may protect them from the sun but that is not the case. “The tan that you get with these products is not protective,” Diane Berson, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, says. “There should not be a false sense of security.”

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1 Comment


on April 10, 2015 at 3:44 AM Reply

When in this process do you apply the SPF? At the end?



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