Sun Exposure: Fact vs. Fiction

Unless you’re a vampire, you’ve been out and exposed to the sun before. Chances are, you’ve heard conflicting opinions on whether it’s good or bad to be outside while the sun is shining. Let’s break down the facts and fiction of sun exposure!

“The sun can cause skin cancer.”   – Fact

The sun is a glowing radiation factory, giving off three categories of ultraviolet light: UVC, UVB and UVA. In the case of the UVC radiation, it is of no consequence to the skin because it is absorbed by the ozone layer before reaching the earth. However, the other two forms of ultraviolet radiation DO affect humans, mainly in the skin. The radiation changes the make-up of your skin cells down to the very DNA. When too much damage occurs, it can sometimes cause skin cells to grow and reproduce rapidly and this can lead to cancerous tumors. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer found today, and many doctors believe that limiting over-exposure to the sun can help prevent it. Both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers can be invasive. As well as growing across the surface of the skin, tumors can sometimes grow down through the layers of skin. If the tumor grows through the wall of a blood or lymph vessel, cancer cells can break off and spread to other parts of the body. This is why skin cancer is usually easier to treat successfully when it is caught at an early stage.

“Catching some rays is GOOD for you!” – Fact

Let’s emphasize the “some” in that sentence. Sunshine isn’t all bad, but moderation and protection are the keys. If you don’t get enough sunshine in your life, you can potentially get what is known as SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.  When exposed to less-than-usual sunlight (like during the winter months when sunlight is more scarce) your body produces more melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that makes you feel sleepy.  Your brain also begins producing lower levels of serotonin — the neurotransmitter that affects mood, appetite, sleep, and sexual desire. Simply put, SAD can make you feel sad. Catching a few rays can lift your spirits.

Your body also absorbs vitamin D from the sun. The sun isn’t the only place you can get vitamin D, though. Many foods are manufactured to be fortified with Vitamin D.

But don’t spend all day in direct sunlight! Wear protective clothing as well as head and eye wear if you can, and definitely put on sunscreen before stepping outdoors.

“You won’t get sunburn if you wear sunscreen.”   – Fiction

Slapping on a little sunscreen in the morning is not a magic cure to protect you all day from sun exposure. Be sure to look at the SPF number on your sunscreen. The larger the SPF number, the greater the amount of protection. Everyone should use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. If you have had  skin cancer or pre-cancer, you should use a sunscreen with an even higher SPF. Many of the new sunscreens have SPFs of 30, 45, or even higher. Sunburn is the most common problem associated with too much sun exposure. But it’s not just annoying and uncomfortable, sun burn is the result of deep cellular damage to your skin cells.  Over time, this damage becomes noticeable in other ways. It can give the skin a “leathery” look. It’s more wrinkly, flakey, and discolored that healthy skin. It is also weakened and will bruise more easily, even though it appears to be thicker. Sunscreen wears off, especially in water. So re-apply throughout the day!

“If you avoid the mid-day sun, you’ll be okay.” – Fiction

While it’s true that the UV rays that damage your skin are most powerful between 10am to 3pm, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get sunburn and skin damage earlier or later in the day. Even if you’re only going to be outside for an hour or two in the morning or just before sunset, wear that sunscreen!

“You can get the same skin damage from tanning beds that you can from the sun.” – Fact

Tanning beds work by producing the same UV Rays that the sun does. It is not a safe alternative to tanning outdoors and you need to take the same precautions when using a tanning bed that you would if you were laying around outside.

“Airbrush tanning is a safe alternative to tanning beds or laying out in the sun.” – Fact

Airbrush tanning uses an all natural compound called DHA. DHA isn’t a dye, paint, or stain. It’s actually a non-toxic, organic compound that creates a chemical reaction with the amino acids in the outermost layer of your skin.  This reaction does not involve the underlying skin pigmentation, nor does it require exposure to ultraviolet light to initiate the change in color. DHA is approved by the FDA, and does not carry the serious risks that tanning outdoors or using a tanning bed does. It is a vegan, organic, and safe alternative to laying out in the sun or using a tanning bed.

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The sun can hurt – we can help!

Us humans look great with a tan. A little color helps us look healthier, younger, and even slimmer! Unfortunately, that color can come at a cost. I don’t mean money, I mean your health!

Sunburn is the most common health problem associated with too much sun exposure. I know what you’re thinking: “Sunburn isn’t fun, but we’ve all had it to varying degrees and we’re fine”… but it’s not just annoying and uncomfortable, sun burn is actually the result of deep cellular damage to your skin cells.  Over time, this damage becomes noticeable in other ways. It can give the skin that “leathery” look. It’s more wrinkly, flakey, and discolored that healthy skin. It is also weakened and will bruise more easily, even if it appears to be thicker.

Still not concerned about health effects from the sun? You might be surprised to learn that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer found today, and many doctors believe that limiting over-exposure to the sun can help prevent it. Too much exposure to direct sunlight can increase your chances of developing skin cancer, and certain skin cancers, such as melanoma, can also spread to other areas of the body if not treated in time, so it’s nothing to scoff at.

Staying out of direct sunlight is the best way to protect yourself, but there’s no way to completely avoid the sun! When you go outdoors, these tips will help minimize the damage:

Wear sunscreen! Be sure to look at the SPF number on your sunscreen. The larger the SPF number, the greater the amount of protection. Everyone should use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. If you have had skin cancer or pre-cancer, you should use a sunscreen with an even higher SPF. Many of the new sunscreens have SPFs of 30, 45, or even higher.

Wear sunglasses that filter UV light. Many brands make stylish shades that also offer this protection. UV Rays can damage your eyes as well as your skin.

Wear protective clothing to help shield your skin. Invest in a good hat! The top of your head is usually a tough spot to lather on the sunscreen, but your hair doesn’t cover your scalp the way a hat does.

Avoid the mid-day sun. The UV rays that damage your skin are most powerful between 10am to 3pm.

But what about getting a tan?

Many people lay out in direct sunlight for hours to get that perfect tan, but even with sunscreen on, UV rays can penetrate your skin and cause damage. Tanning beds, even though they aren’t real sunlight, carry the same risks because they use the same dangerous rays.

There’s good news, though – there are SAFE tanning products that you can use to bronze your skin without actually using the sun or tanning beds!

Airbrush tanning uses an all natural compound called DHA. DHA isn’t a dye, paint, or stain. It’s actually a non-toxic, organic compound that creates a chemical reaction with the amino acids in the outermost layer of your skin.  This reaction does not involve the underlying skin pigmentation, nor does it require exposure to ultraviolet light to initiate the change in color. DHA is approved by the FDA, and does not carry the serious risks that tanning outdoors or using a tanning bed does. It is a vegan, organic, and safe alternative. These tans last 7-10 days and are the safest option for those who desire tan skin but don’t want to risk the permanent damage that UV radiation can cause.

The Safety of Spray Tans

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the research showing how dangerous sun exposure can be. We’ve learned that the UV rays in the sun that damage our skin are also found in tanning beds. This might lead you to wondering about the safety of airbrush tanning as well.

Let’s start with the basics – What is an airbrush tan? How does it work?

When you get an airbrush tan, a technician uses as specialized tool to evenly spray a solution on your skin. This solution soaks into your skin and leaves you with a natural tan for approximately 7-10 days.  The solution we’re referring to contains Dihydroxyacetone or “DHA” – I know it sounds kind of scary, but DHA isn’t some sort of toxic chemical! In fact, it’s a completely NON-toxic, organic compound and it creates a reaction with the amino acids in the stratum corneum, which is the very outermost layer of your skin. This reaction is completely natural, it’s similar to the one that makes an apple turn brown when you cut into it. When you tan outdoors or in a tanning bed, the color change happens in the deepest layer of your skin, called the basal layer. UV Rays from the sun or the bed penetrate deeply into your body to initiate the color change, but it can also cause serious skin damage and even cancer. Your sun tan might be temporary, but the sun has broken down the DNA in your skin cells permanently. With DHA, nothing penetrates that deeply. The DHA stays on the surface of the skin and the reaction doesn’t affect anything below that first outer layer of skin. We are always shedding and re-growing skin. When that top skin flakes off, the color from your airbrush tan leaves with it. Nothing is permanent with an airbrush tan.

But is DHA safe?

The FDA has done extensive research and deemed DHA safe to use. You should not ingest the solution and you should not get it into your eyes, nose, or mouth. So, when you get an airbrush tan, keep your eyes and mouth closed, and don’t inhale the solution. Some people prefer to use nose clips as well, just to be safe. There are some people who have been known to have an allergic reaction to spray tans, but that’s usually due to other ingredients in the solutions used. If you’re sensitive and have many skin allergies, you might want to test a small area to see how it reacts before you do your whole body. Airbrush tanning does NOT carry the risk of skin cancer or photo-aging that the sun or tanning beds do.

There have been issues reported with other tanning products that are sometimes called tan enhancers, accelerators, promoters, or amplifiers. Many of these products interact with the sun to create an even deeper color, so they are actually accentuating the damage done to the skin by the sun itself. There are also oral pills, which are banned commercially in the U.S. and for good reason. They contain the carotenoid chemical (the same pigment found in carrots), and have been associated with a variety or disorders including hepatitis and hives.  Airbrush tanning contains NONE of these risks either. It won’t protect you from the dangers of the sun, though. So when you leave the house, you’re always encouraged to wear sunscreen with an appropriate SPF number to minimize your risk of damage from the sun.

So airbrush tanning is basically the safest way we’ve found to get a tan! It’s also the fastest. You can get a full body tan in about 15 minutes as opposed to laying in the sun for hours!  I bet you’ll be surprised to learn that it’s also quite affordable. Some salons, like Shine in Denver, even offer an option to do a mobile tanning session, where they bring the equipment to your house for you and tan you in the comfort of your own home! Give it a try and see for yourself. It’s fast, cheap, and SAFE! Why not?

Science of Tanning

1221There are several ways you can get a natural tan. The most obvious is from the sun. Light from the sun reaches the earth in three different forms: visible light, infrared light, and ultraviolet light. The last type, ultraviolet light, is classified into three separate categories:
* UVA or black light, which causes tanning.
* UVB, which typically causes damage in the form of sunburn.
* UVC, which doesn’t affect us because it’s filtered out by the atmosphere before it can get to our skin.
The problems we associate with sun exposure, such as premature aging, skin cancer, sun spots, etc. are primarily caused by harmful UVB rays. Research suggests UVA might have a hand in these things as well. Most of the sun’s UV radiation at sea level is UVA rays.
UVA can be reflected, as well. Snow actually reflects roughly 90% of UV light, which is why you can get severe sun burns while skiing or snow boarding. Sand reflects up to 20% of UVB too, so at the beach, you’re getting more UV exposure than you would be getting if you were sitting in your backyard. Water also reflects UV light, although it doesn’t prevent it from penetrating the surface of the water. You can still get burned while swimming. Some surfaces can absorb these rays rather than reflect them. Certain types of glass do this, and our own melanin in our skin absorbs UV light to some degree.

Ultraviolet light in the sun stimulates the production of melanin. This pigment protects cells from damage by absorbing as much UV radiation as it can. Imagine you put a sponge on top of a piece of paper and slowly dropped beads of water onto it. The sponge would soak the water up before it can ruin the paper. That’s sort of what your melanin does to UV rays. It can become saturated, though. Eventually if you keep dropping water on it, the paper will be ruined.

It’s this protective melanin in your skin which gets darker and creates what we call a tan. Caucasians typically have the least amount of melanin in their skin on a day-to-day basis, but in many other races, there is a continuous melanin production, which causes the skin to remain pigmented and also offers more protection against UV rays.

It’s important to note that all UV rays are potentially dangerous. They can cause deep damage to your cells, which results in painful sunburn at best and fatal skin cancer at worst. It’s important to protect yourself from skin damage by wearing sunscreen when you’re outside. Avoiding direct sunlight is the best way to protect yourself. This really ruins your chance at a tan, though.

There is one more way that you can get naturally darker skin, however. That’s through DHA.  DHA is an organic compound naturally found in your own body that creates a chemical reaction within the amino acids in the outermost layer of your skin when applied directly to the exterior of your body. This reaction does not involve the underlying skin pigmentation, nor does it require exposure to ultraviolet light to initiate the change in color.  It is similar to the maillard reaction which occurs in food. It’s a natural, temporary color that looks just like a tan that occurs from melanin. The active ingredient in airbrush tanning is DHA. The color produced in an airbrush tan typically lasts 7-10 days, but it is much safer than roasting yourself in the sun or using a tanning bed.

The Evolution of Tanning

Centuries ago, having pale skin was a status symbol. Lower class workers had darker skin because they were outdoors all day, so being tan was something looked down upon. Women went to great lengths to avoid the sun! Upper class women wore hats and rarely left the house without a parasol. They also caked their faces in heavy white powder to appear more pale.

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In the 1930’s, movies began using color film, which propelled the tanning movement that had slowly began in the 20’s. Starlets were seen basking in the sun at Hollywood swimming pools, and “sun therapy” was being prescribed to cure common illnesses. Swim suits became skimpier and skimpier, and by the 1950’s, bikinis became the hottest fashion trend.

It was a complete status turn-around. Having a tan was now a symbol of wealth and leisure! People were using silver UV reflectors to get darker tans. In the 1960’s, people all over the country were using cocoa butter and baby oil as tanning lotions. The surfing lifestyle was all the rage and tans were the coolest accessories you could have!

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By the 70’s, people wanted to have tans year-round.  In 1975, the tanning booth was created to give you that “just got back from the beach” look all year long. Mattel introduced Malibu Barbie the same year. George Hamilton became the first tan Dracula in “Love At First Bite” shortly after! Sunscreen with SPF 15 came out and more people than ever could enjoy themselves in the sun without burning to a crisp. Movies like “10” and shows like “Baywatch” kept the tan craze alive and well for decades to come. Higher SPF sunscreens were invented, as well as water-proof varieties and spray-on’s. Tan enhancers such as Maxgel and Sizzle became popular with both indoor and outdoor tanners. Tanning became big business – more and more tanning salons opened, offering customers access to tanning booths.

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Eventually, we began studying and learning more about the effects of the sun. It was discovered that too much sun exposure causes serious cellular damage, and is a leading cause of skin cancer. People are now urged to use higher SPF sunscreen and avoid too much time in mid-day sun. Sunless tanning became a safer alternative to roasting at the beach all day or hopping into tanning beds which saturate you with potentially harmful UV rays. There are bronzers you can apply yourself at home and spray tan booths that will spray color at you! Sunless tanning has come a long way from the orange dye that they used to use. The most effective and natural looking sunless tan available today is airbrush tanning. A technician will apply a solution to your skin evenly and make sure you look naturally tan. It’s hard to tell the difference between an airbrush tan and a tan you get from being outdoors. Airbrush tanning solutions contain a compound called DHA which naturally stimulates your skin to produce color, but does not permeate your deep skin tissues the way UV rays do. An airbrush tan will last approximately 7-10 days. It’s FDA approved and currently the safest alternative to baking your body in the sun. It won’t cause wrinkles and leathery skin the way too much sun can, too!

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Being tan is still considered beautiful and most of the models you see in magazines and actors you catch on TV are perfectly bronzed. Tan skin hides imperfections and makes you look younger and healthier. Tanning isn’t going anywhere, but our ability to tan safely with an airbrush tan is certainly a highlight of modern life!

What Creates A Tan?

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Ever wonder what makes your body tan?

There are a few different ways you can get a natural tan. The most obvious is, of course, from the sun! Light from the sun reaches earth in three forms: visible light, infrared, and ultraviolet light. The last type, ultraviolet light, is classified into three categories:
* UVA or black light, which causes tanning.
* UVB, which typically causes damage in the form of sunburn.
* UVC, which doesn’t affect us because it’s filtered out by the atmosphere before it can get to our skin.
The problems we associate with sun exposure, such as skin cancer, wrinkles, etc. are mostly caused by harmful UVB rays. Research suggests UVA might have an increasing hand in these things as well, however. Most of the sun’s UV radiation at sea level is of the UVA variety.
UVA can be reflected off of snow or water. Snow actually reflects roughly 90% of UV light, which is why you can get severe sun burns while skiing. Sand reflects up to 20% of UVB too, so at the beach, you’re getting more UV exposure than you would sitting in your backyard. It’s hitting you from above and below! There are certain surfaces that can absorb UV radiation rather than reflect it, such as certain types of glass.

Ultraviolet light in the sun stimulates the production of melanin in our skin. This pigment absorbs UV light, protecting cells from damage. Imagine you put a sponge on top of a piece of paper and slowly dropped beads of water onto it. The sponge would soak the water up before it can ruin the paper. That’s sort of what your melanin does to UV rays. Over time, this protective pigment makes your skin look darker, hence: a tan! Caucasians typically have the least amount of melanin in their skin on a day-to-day basis, but in many other races, there is a continuous melanin production, which causes the skin to remain pigmented and also offers more protection against UV rays on a daily basis.

It’s important to note that all UV rays are potentially dangerous. If you keep dropping water onto that sponge, eventually, it will soak through and damage the paper. That’s fine when we’re talking about metaphorical paper, but not so great when we’re talking about your skin! UV rays can cause deep damage to your cells, which results in painful sunburn at best and fatal skin cancer at worst. It’s important to protect yourself from skin damage by wearing sunscreen when you’re outside. Avoiding direct sunlight is the best way to protect yourself. This really ruins your chance at a tan, though.

There’s one more way that you can get naturally darker skin, however. That’s through DHA.  DHA is a non-toxic, organic compound that creates a chemical reaction within the amino acids in the outermost layer of your skin. This reaction does not involve the underlying skin pigmentation, nor does it require exposure to ultraviolet light to initiate the change in color. It is similar to the maillard reaction which occurs in food. It’s a natural, temporary color that looks just like a tan that occurs from melanin. The active ingredient in airbrush tanning is DHA. The color produced in an airbrush tan typically lasts 7-10 days, but it is much safer than roasting yourself in the sun or using a tanning bed.

Don’t Get Burned!

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We’ve all been outside a liiiiittle too long without applying or re-applying sunscreen and have had to deal with the dreaded scourge of summer: SUNBURN!

But what exactly causes that red skin/blisters/peeling/itchy/painful ordeal?

Well, the sun produces UV radiation and too much exposure can cause a form of radiation burn. That’s basically what a sunburn is: Radiation burn. If it feels like you’ve just been cooked in a microwave oven, it’s because that analogy isn’t THAT far off. UV rays  start to “roast” the skin cells’ DNA, killing those cells. If the damage is not properly repaired when new skin cells are created, it can cause sun spots. It can also cause a tumor to form in the skin. The tumor might be benign, but it might also be a cancerous melanoma! Skin cancer is a very real threat. Cancer can spread to other parts of the body and end up being fatal.

To avoid sunburn, you should limit your exposure to the sun. I know, I know – that’s easier said than done. Who wants to be inside all day? You’re going to be outdoors and you can’t avoid sun completely! That’s where sunscreen comes in. Sunscreen applied to exposed skin also helps reduce your risk of burning. The higher the SPF, the more protection you have. They make sunscreens that you can wear in water as well, but be sure to re-apply a few times through out the day to keep yourself safe. Clothes help, too! Wearing hats and clothing that covers your skin can help reduce your exposure.

If you do happen to burn, there’s no “cure” but there are things you can do to help alleviate the painful symptoms until the burn heals. Use cool, wet towels on the area or take cool showers to help bring your body temperature down. Apply lotions that contain aloe vera to sunburned areas to soothe the skin. Topical steroids (such as 1% hydrocortisone cream) may also help with pain and swelling.   Note: Do not use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor directs you to. Oatmeal and chamomile are sometimes recommended to help with the itching and peeling of sunburns.

But what about tanning? Tanning beds also produce UV rays, so they should also be avoided in order to reduce your risks of skin damage. But you still want that color! What are you supposed to do?! Well, that’s where airbrush tanning comes in. You can get the color without the sun! It’s not a stain, you won’t turn orange – it’s an FDA-approved natural, organic compound that produces color in the top layer of your skin but doesn’t damage the deeper layers the way UV rays from the sun or tanning beds can! The solutions we use at Shine are vegan and never tested on animals. It’s a safe, affordable way to get the tan you want this summer without risking the dreaded BURN!  Give us a call today!

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