What is tanning?
Tanning has its origins in the word tan, which is a particular shade of light brown. White skinned men and women looked attractive when their skin put on a deeper hue from staying out in the sun. Tanning has become a cult with the pale skinned, staying out in the sun for hours on end, exposing maximum part of their body to acquire an even wholesome tan.
Today, tanning is akin to the darkening of skin complexion due to exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. People with wheatish complexion living in the tropical and sub-tropical region, have a tendency to turn dark and tanned, due to grater exposure to the UVA and UVB rays through most parts of the day.
Melanin is the pigment responsible for skin color. It is nature’s sunscreen that protects the body from the harmful rays of the sun. Exposure to the sun increases the production of melanin, which leads to a deepened skin tone resulting in sun tan.
How to protect yourself from sun tan?
The skin can get tanned in a couple of days, but it can take months for it to restore its original color, thereby making it all the more important to protect it from the hot sun.
The UVA rays that are present in sunlight through out the day can penetrate the deeper layers of the skin to alter your skin color, apart from affecting the immune system. Adequate amount of protection from the harmful affects of the UV rays becomes necessary, despite your yearning for a beautifully tinted skin tone.
The best way to protect oneself from the ill effects of sun is to avoid direct exposure to the sun rays. Walk and lounge in the shade, use an umbrella, or a broad rimmed hat when out on the field.
Cover yourself with clothes from top to bottom, to provide maximum protection! Do you remember Arab women with burkhas? Well, the beautiful Arab women, managed to maintain their fairness, because of the black cloth acting as sunscreens covering their entire body from the face to the toes. North Indian women covered their hands with different sized bangles from the sleeves till the wrist, to keep the hands in shade and guard it in extreme weather conditions.
So sunscreen it is, the ultimate solution for protection against the sun. Now, it is a matter of choice as to what kind of sunscreen you would like to use. It is very impractical as well as uncomfortable to wear too many clothes, leggings, socks, gloves, shoes and scarves in the scorching heat. It’s much better to apply cream based sunscreens (with SPF 15 or more) over the face, neck, hands and feet everyday, to stop UV rays from damaging the skin.
It is advisable to use sunscreen along with a moisturizer 20-30 min before going out. This locks in the moisture on your skin, and prepares it to brave the heat. Remember to apply an even coat of sunscreen on the neck, shoulders, ears, exposed back area, and feet, along with the face and hands that you tend to care more about. Do not forget an SPF rated lip balm.
Another important preventive measure against the sun is to keep the skin nourished and hydrated. Drinking plenty of water and increasing fluid intake in the form of fruit juice, vegetable juice, herbal juice, protein drink, lemonade, energy drink etc. cools your body, regulates digestion, strengthens the immune system and increases blood supply to the minute capillaries of the skin. Taking a vitamin rich diet will nourish the skin, and prepare it better to fight the onslaught of the sun.
UV rays easily penetrate the clouds. So it’s not that you are exactly free of Ultraviolet radiation in the atmosphere on a cloudy day. Wearing day creams, moisturizers or make up packs that have some SPF will always help. It is okay to wear an SPF below the make up. It will still ward off the UV rays.
How to choose a suitable sunscreen?
No sunscreen gives 100% protection from the sun and its tanning effects. So you might as well go in for sunbathing with a sunscreen on, in order to get tanned in the controlled manner without any side effects.
The sun is stronger between the tropics, and the radiation higher on the altitudes and on snow, sand or water. It is recommended to use SPF 30+ for trekking expeditions, sports activities and lounging on the tropical beaches.
Water proof creams are the order of the day, because otherwise they’ll run down sweat, but even then they are not 100 % water resistant. 2-3 hours into the water, and its advisable to apply another coat, just to save your skin.
A broad spectrum sunscreen shields both UVA and UVB light. Some chemicals such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, Mexoryl, Sulisobenzone, Salicylates, Zinc oxide, Titanium dioxide, Avobenzone, menthyl anthranilate and others can shield UV light to good extent.
There is a notion that oxibenzone found in sunscreen lotions are harmful. It is true that this chemical quickly penerates the epidermal layers, but there is no research till now, on the harmful effects of oxibenzone on the human body. However, its contribution towards protection from tanning is accepted. Therefore, it only makes sense to use sunscreens without hesitation when you have to go out in the sun, even if, you do not want to use it on a regular basis while at home or office.
Always make it a point to read the ingredients, warnings, methods of application, and the skin type for which this particular sun cream is recommended to avoid heartbreak. There might be preservatives, aromas or ingredients you might be allergic towards. Its better to consult your doctor regarding the ingredients and frequency of application if you are on medication or suffering from any ailment. You can always get another sun block that is devoid of such allergens. Higher SPF points towards the duration or length of time it will work on your skin. But no matter how high the SPF value is, it is always subject to being rub off from touch as well as sweat. Ultimately, a reapplication after 2-3 hours in the sun becomes necessary. So it is advisable to use a medium range SPF and re-apply after a couple of hours for complete protection.
Either from the fear of side effects, or from the cost point of view, but people have a tendency to use sun creams very sparingly, to the extent that its sun protection factor actually goes down dramatically, despite using a higher SPF cream. Now what do you call that? When an application of sun block is not ultimately helping you, it is pointless to buy it, and take the pains in applying it. Rather, purchase a product after complete research and satisfaction that it’s the right product for your skin type. Then use it sufficiently, in the recommended doses for it to work the way you want it to work.
There are numerous sunscreens in the market, with different compounds beneficial for oily skin, dry skin, facial use and body application. Water based, gel based or alcohol based creams and sprays are more suited for oily and acne prone skin. On the other hand, cream or oil based lotions are better for dry skin. If you have eczema or any other skin disease, beware of alcohol.
If you are unsure about which sunscreen to buy, do a patch test on your wrist. The effects of tan or burns are seen only after 24 hours. If you are unsatisfied, try another brand with different compositions. With so many different combinations to suit different purposes, you will surely get one that serve your purpose.