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Sunbathing 101: How to Tan Quickly Without Burning

A lot of people like sunbathing, but it can damage your skin. Let's take a look at how to tan safely so you can get a healthy glow without burning.

Three young women sunbathing

Is sunbathing healthy?

A moderate amount of sunbathing may not be dangerous if you are careful about protecting your skin. The sun helps our bodies process vitamin D, which is essential to healthy bones, hair, and teeth. Studies have also shown that exposure to sunshine helps boost the levels of serotonin in our body and positively affect our mood.  

How to tan without burning

It is possible to tan without burning if you take certain precautions. First, avoid tanning beds. These beds or stand up booths are designed to provide intense exposure to ultraviolet rays that will cause you to tan quickly but also cause significant skin damage that can lead to skin cancer

Next, select the right sunscreen. Pay attention to the SPF rating and look for a product that contains broad-spectrum protection. Try to find a sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection. 

An SPF of 30 is adequate, as it blocks up to 97 percent of the harmful (burning) ultraviolet rays. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes before you go outside and again every two hours. This frequency may vary depending on your outdoor activity.

If you are swimming or doing an activity that makes you sweat, you will need to reapply more often to prevent sunburn. Also, pay particular attention to areas that get less daily exposure and may be more sensitive to burning.

If you are outside for a prolonged period, try to seek shade from time to time. If this is not possible, consider wearing clothing that will protect your skin from overexposure. Remember, even if you have a hat on, you can still burn on your face, ears, and neck. This is especially true if you are in, on, or near water that will reflect the sun.

Sunburn treatment

Sunburn can be mild to severe, depending on your skin type and amount of exposure. When your skin is red, painful, and warm to the touch, this is a first-degree burn. You can apply a cold compresses to the warm areas, take pain relievers, apply moisturizer, and drink plenty of water.  

If the skin blisters, this is considered a second-degree burn. Do not try to pop these blisters. This can make you more susceptible to infection and additional skin damage. To treat this type of sunburn, do the same things that are recommended for a minor burn.

You may need to wear soft, loose-fitting clothing to avoid any friction in that area, particularly at night. You can also apply hydrocortisone to areas that are burned but avoid any products ending in "caine" like benzocaine. These products can cause an allergic reaction.

Natural sun vs. tanning room: what’s healthier?

Tanning beds entered the market in the 1970s and rapidly gained popularity over the following decades. Tanning beds became a convenient way for people to get a tan without having to spend hours in the sun, but they also put many people at risk for skin cancer. 

Natural suntanning can also lead to skin cancer if you do not adequately protect your skin from overexposure. Experts recommend that you wear an SPF 30 sunscreen when outdoors. While using a tanning bed, people rarely wear sunscreen and many wear tan accelerators to maximize their color.

How to tan safely: 7 pro tips

A woman applying sunscreen to tan safely

1. Always apply an SPF 30 sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside.

2. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours.

3. Limit your sun tanning at first and then gradually increase your exposure.

4. If you notice that your skin is getting red, cover up that area or go inside.

5. If you do get sunburned, do not go back in the sun until it heals.

6. Remember to apply sunscreen to your lips as well.

7. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from sun damage.

Sunbathing pros and cons

Natural sunbathing has both pros and cons when it comes to the health of your skin. UVA rays cause our skin to darken. These rays cause the melanin in skin to oxidize, providing slight protection to the underlying layers of skin. However, UVA rays can also reach deeper into the layers of your skin, ultimately causing damage. 

UVB rays are responsible for sunburn. This burning is primarily limited to the superficial layers of the skin. Exposure to this type of ultraviolet radiation can also contribute to skin tanning, premature aging, and the possibility of developing skin cancer.

Sunbathing should be done safely and only in moderation. It is vital that you protect your skin whenever outdoors for extended periods and to seek other means of protection, like shade, whenever possible. To defend your skin from the damaging effects of the sun, always wear a broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen and look for beauty products that also contain sunscreen. This will allow you to spend time outdoors without causing damage to your skin that could lead to premature aging and skin cancer.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3779905/

https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sunburn/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355928

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/sunburn#1

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0738081X16301523

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10900-019-00658-1

https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb

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