Your Skin’s Health: On Self-Tanners, Tanning Beds and Sunbathing

Angela Jenkins

| 3 min read

If you want bronze skin, there are three main ways to achieve a tan: directly in the sun (sunbathing), using a tanning bed, or using self-tanning lotion. Having had two suspicious spots removed in the past (fortunately they were benign) the self tanner is the no-brainer choice for me.
In high school and college I used to use tanning beds and lay out in the sun without sunscreen. While I thoroughly enjoyed being golden brown, I didn’t realize the damage I was doing to my body.

Damaging Effects

Tanning beds give off UVA rays and the natural sun gives off both UVA and UVB rays, both of which are harmful types of ultraviolet radiation that can damage your skin. The most harmful result of overexposure is skin cancer, and a scary statistic is that 1 in 3 cancers diagnosed in the U.S. are skin cancers. Other possible effects include:
  • Thick, wrinkled and leathery skin
  • Premature or damaged cataracts
  • Damage to the cornea and retina of the eye
  • Suppression of the immune system
Check out the Mayo Clinics’ slide show on Sun Damage to get visuals of damaged skin.
We do need a daily dose of Vitamin D and the sun provides us with that; however it only takes 10 minutes of sunshine to get the amount we need to fulfill that requirement. Most people aren’t aware of that and go overboard, and that is where the potential damage comes into play.

A Word of Caution

If you have a spot on your body that is new, looks different than normal, or you are just worried about it, have your doctor check it out. You should be doing visual skin examinations on yourself or your partner at least once a month. Here are signs from The Skin Cancer Foundation on what to look for:
  • A skin growth that gets bigger or is the color of pearl, translucent, multicolored, tan, brown or black
  • A mole, birthmark, beauty mark or any other brown spot that:
-changes color
-increases in size or thickness
-changes texture
-has an irregular outline
-is larger than 1/4 the size of a pencil eraser
-appears after age 21
  • A spot or sore that continuously itches, hurts, scabs, crusts, erodes or bleeds
  • An open sore that doesn’t heal within three weeks

And the Winner Is…

With all of that being said, it appears obvious to me that self tanners are the best and safest route when desiring a tan. These lotions contain no harmful ingredients, and with the advancement of science, they are more improved and efficient than before (no more orange skin). There are many products out there with various costs and sizes, so choosing the right one is an individual choice.
Here are some benefits of self-tanners:
  • Cost less than going to a tanner
  • Take less time to achieve a tan
  • A quick and efficient fix for a last minute vacation or event
  • Can take selfless tanner on the go
  • Can get a tan anywhere
I tried self tanners years ago and wasn’t too impressed. One left an orange-brown film on my bed sheets (because you had to apply at night time before bed). The others I tried had a funky smell that lingered. I am happy to report that I have tried a couple more recently and they are much better, you can get various scents and most don’t leave a film on clothes or sheets.
What are your thoughts on self tanners versus tanning beds and sunbathing? Are you a sun god or goddess who can’t give up the burn?
Photo credit: rainbreaw

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