As the weather gets nicer, you may want to spend more time enjoying the outdoors and soaking up the sun. Tanning, however, is never a good idea. While you may enjoy a darker shade of skin for a few days, the long-term effects of tanning can be very harmful.
Although you only see the surface effects of sun exposure, what happens below the top layer of skin is actually quite dangerous. The ultraviolet rays of the sun penetrate into the skin cells below the surface, causing significant damage to the skin. The reason your skin becomes darker when it’s exposed to the sun is because it produces more melanin. The melanin serves as an umbrella for your skin, and tries to help your skin avoid getting burned in the future. So even if you do not feel that your skin has burned from a long day out in the sun, it is likely that your skin has been harmed, and is showing a tan to avoid being burned even more severely.
A few days of improved physical appearance do not outweigh the long-term dangers of sun damage. Sun damage builds up over time, so even going out tanning every once in a while can have unintended consequences over the course of your lifetime. Repeated sun exposure can lead to uneven skin tones and blotchiness, early aging, wrinkling of the skin and—in the worst cases—skin cancer.
Fortunately, there is a simple way to protect your skin from unwanted consequences of suntanning: sunscreen. You should always apply sunscreen of SPF 30 or above before going out into sunny weather for an extended period of time. We recommend that you apply a generous coat of sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply every two hours to ensure that you are well protected for the entire day. Similarly, it is important to remember that sweat proof or waterproof sunscreen does not exist—you should reapply immediately after any activity that might cause the sunscreen to wear off. Don’t forget to put it on your face, ears, or any other place you might not be able to easily feel yourself burning! Wearing clothing that can help shield you from the sun whenever possible is another smart way to stay safe. Hats, sunglasses and swim shirts are a few great ways to keep harmful ultraviolet rays from damaging the most vulnerable areas of your body.
It is possible to enjoy a nice day outside in a responsible way, and we certainly do not expect you to stay indoors on a sunny afternoon. But remember that the risks of sun damage are very serious, and you should be cautious when heading outdoors. While public opinion may make it seem like tanning is fashionable and fun, it’s crucial to take the appropriate steps toward keeping your skin safe and healthy.
Learn more about the dangers of tanning from Dr. Matthew Larson:
Dermatology Consultants offers same day and next day appointments. If you have a suspicious-looking blotch on your skin that you think may have resulted from sunburns or sun exposure, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment.