May was the Skin Cancer Foundation’s official “skin cancer awareness” month. Unless you live under a rock (and you might want to, after reading this!) you know that prolonged, deliberate sun exposure is not a good thing. But does that awareness really impact your sun-soaking habits?
The Skin Cancer Foundation calls skin cancer “a lifestyle disease.” Skin cancer is the world’s most common cancer. It affects two million people and kills over 10,000 people in the US annually. The vast majority of skin cancers are associated with ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
But unless you’ve had a scare and finger-shaking at the dermatologist... or worse, suffered the tragic loss of a loved one...you probably don’t follow the rules and rigors of “sun safety” as put forth by the American Cancer Society.
Truth is, warm pulsing sun feels sooooooo good. It relaxes muscles and boosts serotonin... your body’s natural “happy hormone. It reduces melatonin levels (which regulate sleep) so you have more energy. And it activates Vitamin D, critical to calcium absorption, which builds teeth, bones and protects against many common cancers. l
And, most people really do look....and feel....better with a bit of a tan. Tan skin looks more even toned. Blemishes and discolorations are less noticeable, shadows and dark circles are disguised. Eyes and teeth look whiter and brighter. People even say that darkened skin, like wearing darker colored clothing, makes them look slimmer.
Pre-nineteen twenties, in the days when women protected their porcelain skin with parasols, tans were viewed as a working class badge. Thank (or blame!) Coco Chanel for changing all that. As the story goes, the iconic French fashion designer accidently got a lot of sun while on a yacht. When she returned from the Riviera golden and glowing, the tanning lifestyle was born. “Tan” became associated with celebrity, leisure, money, youth.
Studies also have shown that personal confidence levels are enhanced with a tan, and this confidence projects as attractiveness. Women feel sexier with a tan...and men are attracted to women with a sunny glow. Think spring break in Cabo...need we say more about pursuit of the ultimate tan?
The link between “attractiveness” and tanning keeps the indoor tanning industry thriving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indoor tanning is on the rise among young women and teenage girls, who are under the misconception that UV rays in tanning booths are not harmful. But UV rays in tanning booths are actually more dangerous than natural sunshine because they are more intense, directed to the whole body in large doses. According to the CDC, people who begin tanning younger than age 35 have a 59% higher risk of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
So....fake it or bake it? It’s a trick question: “bake it” is not an option. According to the American Cancer Society, “Indoors or outdoors, there’s no such thing as a safe tan.”
Practice "safe sun" with the perfect "Faux Glow Kit"
Slide cursor to view Bofore/After
If you want the look of tan skin without the dangers of UV rays (which not only cause serious health problems, but cause photo-ageing that results in wrinkles and brown spots) here are your choices:
Professional spray tan
A red-carpet ritual and pre-prom-night prep, professional spray tans deliver all-over even color. Because a pro is doing the spraying, expect no blotches, streaks or strange shades. Also expect to pay about $100 for a “topcoat tan” that may last 4 days, tops.
Booth spray tan
It’s like a car-wash...but you come out tan. Unfortunately, the creams and lotions applied to elbows and knees don’t always do the trick. You’ll have a “tan-line” free look, but darker patches where your skin is thinner or drier.
There are kazillions on the market. Some costly, some cheap. They all work by temporarily activating enzymes in your skin that cause it to “brown”....like an apple when the peel is removed. But they all deliver different depth and range of color. You will have to experiment to avoid the Oompa Loompa orange effect.
Bronzers, glow-makers, tints
Available as powders, fluids and creams, these products are made to give your face a healthy glow. Some are tanners, some are tinters.... some defy categorization and work like magic to give your complexion a sun-free, sun-kissed look.
Remember, skin darkening glow products are NOT protection against UV rays. Use sunscreen with “broad spectrum” protection and a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Apply about a shot-glass size of product at least every 2 hours, as well as after swimming or sweating. Always follow directions on the label, and be sure to check the expiration date! Wear a hat, seek shade and find your favorite “Faux Glow” formula!