Tanning - Myths And Misconceptions

Also known as bronzing in colloquial terms, sun tanning involves the exposure of the skin to ultraviolet (UV) rays in order to darken it. A suntan can happen naturally, while sunbathing for instance, or by using artificial aids such as suntan lotions, pills or tanning beds.

Acquiring the perfect sun-kissed look is not easy and the process is further complicated by the number of myths that are commonly associated with it.

The following are a few tanning myths that need to be busted.

1. Sun protection is unnecessary on cloudy days
Most people firmly believe that clouds offer some sort of natural protection against tanning or sunburn. This belief has no basis because sunlight is made of UVA as well as UVB rays and clouds offer only partial protection against UVB rays, the main cause of sunburn and skin cancer. Besides, UVA rays are present even in cloudy weather, so it is necessary to get adequate protection from the sun.
2. A traditional suntan is more dangerous than tanning beds
One of the most prevalent misconceptions about suntan today is that getting one naturally can result in sunburn and/or skin cancer, while tanning beds are perfectly safe. This belief is based on the fact that UVA rays, which are considered to be safer than UVB rays, are used in tanning beds. The truth is that both kinds of radiation are equally dangerous for the skin.

3. Tanning is good for the skin
Many people believe that tanning offers protection from sunburn because it blocks UV rays from penetrating the skin and works as a natural barrier. In reality, tanned skin is defenseless against UV rays in the absence of an external protection layer. Tanned skin is nothing but darkened skin and is as susceptible to sunburn as any unprotected skin. Tanning is also often associated with good health but there is no scientific evidence to support this belief. Exposure to sunlight helps convert inactive Vitamin D in the body into active form. Vitamin D boosts immunity and prevents certain kinds of cancer. But only 10-15 minutes of daily exposure to the sun without sunscreen is enough for this. Tanning usually requires more time and increases the risk of getting skin cancer.

4. Sunburn is necessary for getting a suntan
Sunburn that fades away to reveal a perfect suntan is a myth that usually results in cases of severely burnt skin and very little else. Sunburn causes tremendous damage to the skin in the form of wrinkled, aged and rough skin. It can also cause freckles and blotches. While it is necessary to get the daily dose of Vitamin D, it is equally necessary to get adequate sun protection while doing so. UVA and UVB radiation should be avoided at all costs, even if a tanning bed is being used.
5. All skin types need the same time for getting a tan
There are various skin types, each has different requirements and needs to be handled differently. Getting a suntan is desirable but different skin types have different levels of tanning abilities within the same time frame. A particular type may require a few minutes to acquire that perfect bronzed look, while others may not be affected by hours in the sun. A few sensitive skin types may even come out in blotches or freckles instead of tanning evenly. For instance, olive skin is more susceptible to suntan while fair skin takes a much longer time to tan.

Exposure to the sun also raises the level of Vitamin D in the body. However, excessive exposure to sunlight has detrimental effects and has been conclusively proved to cause sunburn and more importantly, skin cancer. So be careful before you seek out that golden, sun-kissed look.

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