By now, most of us are pretty well-versed on the perils of sun overexposure. The sun can age your skin, wrinkling and sagging what was once smooth and taut. And overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays puts you at high risk of skin cancer, and those with fair skin are especially vulnerable.
While most people are smart about applying high SPF sunscreens (at least SPF 15 or higher) and taking to the shade, many feel the pressure to live up to a golden standard set by celebrities. You see them in the magazines with their teeny bathing suits and all-over tans. While it's best to protect yourself from the sun and accept your natural skin colour, celebrity standards compel people to spend millions each year on self-tanning solutions, spray-on salon tans, and sessions on sunbeds. Is a "healthy tan" still a myth, or could one of these sunless options give you a safer glow?
The bottle: self-tanning lotions
The mist: salon spray-on and airbrush tans
The bed: tanning booths and sunbeds
Tanning pills. When ingested, the so-called tanning pill releases a pigment into the body that gets absorbed into the skin and into internal organs. Banned in the US but still available in some places, tanning pills have been linked to hepatitis and yellow deposits in the eyes.
The "base tan" myth. It's a refrain often overheard in tanning salons: "I'm going on vacation, so I need to get a base tan." A base tan offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of, at best, 2 to 4 and provides no defence against skin cancer.
Underage tanning. Skin protection should be the priority for parents with babies, kids, and even teenagers. Tanning beds emit too much UV risk and should not be used by anyone under the age of 18. And though sunless tanning lotions with DHA are deemed safe for topical use, they may irritate youthful skin. As with any skincare products, sunless tanners should be kept out of the reach of very young children.
DIY sunbeds. Some spas, salons, resorts, and other places offer do-it-yourself (DIY), self-service tanning beds. The risk here is that without a trained professional to supervise tanning sessions, people may overdo it by staying too long under UV rays that are too intense.
Foregoing sunscreen. Unless it's specified as a high SPF product, sunless tanning solutions don't offer protection from UV sun damage.
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