Does Getting a Tan Damage Your Skin
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Published by TOP4 Team
All across Australia, where many of the world's most beautiful coastlines can be found, it's very common to see locals and tourists alike settling into beach towels and lounge chairs at the beach, working on their tan. For people with relatively fair skin, getting a tan is a desired summer activity because the darker skin colour is thought to give them an attractive appearance that they wouldn't normally have for the rest of the year.
It's very normal to see people at the beach or even by the pool lying face up, and then facedown, on their towels and chairs in order to get an even tan on their entire body (which is why they wear skimpy swimwear in order to give the sun access to as much of their bare skin as possible).
However, experts warn that while people may like how they look with a tan, the activity could be wreaking havoc on their skin. Simply speaking, a suntan is already a sign of skin damage itself, and there is no such thing as a "safe" tan.
What happens when you get a tan?
The top layer of the skin, called the epidermis, has skin cells that produce a pigment called melanin which gives skin its natural colour. When the skin is exposed to UV radiation, like from the sun, more melanin is produced — the skin darkening that occurs is actually the skin trying to protect itself against UV damage.
Is there a way to safely get a tan?
Getting a tan will basically require you to expose yourself to harmful amounts of UV radiation, either from the sun or from pieces of equipment called solariums (sunbeds, sunlamps, and tanning beds), so health professionals are firm about saying that there's no way to get a tan without damaging the skin.
There are also artificial ways to get a tan, mostly from using different types of tanning products like:
Topical dyes. These pertain to tanning creams, lotions, sprays, mousses, a combination of moisturisers and fake tan products, and the like. They are made of vegetable dyes that give the skin a darker appearance when applied; they do not stimulate the production of melanin, and they come off the skin after a few days with the person's dead skin cells.
Bronzers and tinted sunscreens. These are tinted cosmetics like foundations, powders, moisturisers, and sunscreen. They only provide temporary colour — they can be washed off with soap and water.
Tan accelerators. These products claim to stimulate melanin production to facilitate a natural tanning process, and typically come in tablet or lotion form.
Spray tanning booths. Mister spray guns are used to apply an even coat of fake tan solution all over the body. These booths can be found in some salons, gymnasiums, and at the hairdressers'.
Health risks of tanning
Regardless of the type of tanning product you choose, you still face considerable risks of contracting skin cancer because the products rarely contain ingredients that protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun; putting the products on does not mean that you automatically have a layer of protection on against the UV rays. If these products do contain actual sunscreen, they will need to be reapplied every 2 hours, and very few people are very diligent about reapplication while outside.
The next time you visit the beach or go for a relaxing day in a resort, remember that it's not worth getting a temporary tan if the consequence is an increased risk of skin cancer. Whenever you step outside, make sure to protect your skin by putting on the right clothing, sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunscreen, and stand or sit under shade as much as possible.