How Healthy Is Your Tan?
Sun tanning has been a "thing" ever since fashion designer Gabrielle Coco Chanel burnt her skin whilst in Cannes, and popularised tanning your skin for the purpose of beauty in the 1920's. However, few people realise that a tan is actually your skin's response to an injury from the sun and unfortunately, there is no such thing as a "healthy tan".
You may look bronzed and glowing after your holiday, but as the melanin and inflammation fades, your skin becomes deflated and is left visibly shrivelled. The damage has been done. Over time, too much exposure to the sun's UV rays which can penetrate deep into your skin's dermis, will hinder the production of collagen and elastin, and you'll be at risk of premature aging.
That said, a sunburn is much worse: the ultraviolet rays have actually killed cells in the top and deeper layers of the skin. The upper layers eventually are shed in sheets or flakes. The sheets are what people see with peeling. Those sheets are epidermal cells that have formed more quickly than normal due to the injury and are all stuck together. The deeper skin cells, on the other hand, stay put with damaged DNA. While some of them get repaired by our bodies, others can get missed — especially with additional burns and tanning — and result in skin cancer.
What determines how damaging the sun is to a person is the amount of melanin in the skin. Melanin acts as a natural sunscreen. Fair-skinned people (blonds, redheads, blue- or green-eyed) have the least melanin and are the most susceptible to sun damage — both its aging and skin cancer risks. Darker-skinned people have some natural protection in the form of melanin — but it’s not total sunscreen! They can still burn and develop accelerated skin aging (wrinkles, dark spots) from the sun.
But, risk spectrum aside, skin cancer can happen to anyone.
Go to the beach and have fun, but wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen of 30 or higher with two hours of water resistance. And on a daily basis, wear a high SPF sunscreen on whatever will stick out of your clothes. The sun isn't our enemy but we do need to prevent sun damage as prevention is key. It’s a question of one’s health, not vanity.