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Tanning: The Good, The BAD

It’s GTL season (Gym, Tan, Laundry) and lets be honest; everyone has their nice tans, and if you don’t, you probably want to go to the beach and get one, but is it really worth it?

Let’s take a look at the positives and negatives (pay attention, guidos especially!)

Firstly what is a tan? A tan may leave your skin glowing but a tan is actually a response from your skin cells indicating they have been damaged. So the more tanned you get, while sun tanning or using tanning beds, basically indicates a greater level of skin damage. Now let’s shift gears to the physiological responses of tanning. Everyone reads about how UV rays, which are emitted by the sun, are dangerous but do we really realize how much damage is being caused? One of the big drawbacks of excessive and long term tanning, is the increased chance of getting cancer. How can tanning even cause cancer? Basically, the ultraviolet rays emitted from the sun act on your cells, mostly skin cells, and cause a malfunction in DNA synthesis. Besides increasing your risk for cancer, tanning also helps your skin develop wrinkles. How this happens is, the rays emitted from the sun penetrate the skin and damage the collagen fibers. So what’s the big deal if collagen is damaged? Collagen is what keeps the skin tight and looking young, and tanning alters the properties of the collagen, causing your skin to wrinkle. As you get older the collagen fibers in your skin become naturally damaged, but tanning will help accelerate the appearance of aging.

A misconception of tanning is that tanning helps treat acne. This is completely false; tanning just hides the discoloration and scars which are caused by acne, it does not actually help get rid of it. To a certain extent tanning can actually cause blemishes, blackheads, and pimples because the rays penetrate into the skin and open up skin pores, and this allows oil and bacteria to settle in, causing the acne. Also, most people with acne usually use cleansers, creams, or even take pills, these types of acne treatments make your skin even more sensitive to the UV rays. People with acne(whom are using some sort of acne treatment) tend to tan better but are at a higher risk for getting sun burned, and developing skin cancer.

Now onto the positives..

One benefit of tanning is it provides Vitamin D. Vitamin D has many important functions in your body such as:

  1. helps keep your bone healthy,
  2. enhances your immune system,
  3. and also decreases your risk for influenza during the winter.

Sun tanning beds, are effective at getting your vitamin D dose, but this should not be done excessively! once or twice a week for a short period of time should allow you to obtain the amount of vitamin D needed. Also If your are going to be tanning make sure you use sunscreen, the higher the SPF the greater the protection you will get from the UV rays, which helps prevent sun burn. Most people just apply sunscreen before tanning, but for maximum effectiveness it should be applied every 30 minutes. If you want to get a tan you should still be using sunscreen but get one which has a lower SPF, but nothing with a SPF lower than 20. If you do not want to get darker, use a sunscreen with a high SPF; the higher the SPF the better.

After getting a nice tan in the summer, most want to maintain that tan through the fall and resort to tanning beds. Tanning beds are somewhat better because they allow you to obtain the “perfect” tan. Even though they do still emit UV rays , they have 40% less UVB ray’s emitted than the sun. UVB light can be looked at as the bad type of rays because sunburns and other adverse effects are not wanted from tanning. The reason tanning beds allow you to obtain a “perfect” tan, is because you only go for increments of about 15 minutes, a couple times a week and receive the desired rays needed for tanning. In the winter it is effective for those who have vitamin D deficiency to use tanning beds, especially in Canada since we do not get enough sunlight to obtain sufficient amounts.

Stay tuned for next week’s health tip!

Written by: Noreen

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