Want that Summer Tan? Try Tanning Cream instead of Tanning Beds

Carolyn Hoy

Nvate laying out in the sun skin cancer summer sun screen tanning tanning bed dangers tanning beds tanning cream tans

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It’s summer! The sun is golden and the “golden” state is brimming with tourists. The sand on the beaches is golden, the flowers are golden and even the dry fields of the Midwest and Texas are golden. So naturally, people want to be golden, too. On pool decks and beaches, people lay in swimsuits, trying to catch the golden rays. However, those who have full-time jobs or other hindrances from outdoor tanning must find alternatives to the natural sun rays. Spray tans have a reputation for “orange not gold,” and lotions tend to collect in the creases of the skin rather than spreading evenly. So, tanning beds are well-worth the cost for many who desire that golden summer glow, but are the costs worth it?

The rumor mill says that indoor tanning is dangerous, and that one day people will look back on the days of tanning salons like most now look at lung cancer-causing cigarettes. While some will choose the risk anyway, most will deem it no longer worth the health costs. Until recently, though, good evidence for why it is so dangerous was elusive. The truth is out. Indoor tanning is hazardous.

The Dangers of Tanning Beds and Laying Out in the Sun

The Skin Cancer Foundation article, “Strong Scientific Research for Banning Indoor Tanning,” does not simply state people should be somewhat cautious about indoor tanning, it advocates for making tanning completely illegal. “Recent studies provide evidence linking indoor tanning bed use to melanoma and reinforce the declaration by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that indoor tanning devices are carcinogenic to humans,” according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

With the research proving how dangerous tanning beds are, what should people do about tanning in general? After all, isn’t the problem with tanning beds simply that they give too much ultraviolet, or UV, radiation too fast and, if a person gets the same UV exposure outside by spending more time to get the same tan, isn’t that just as dangerous?

Researchomatic.com states that “inside and outside, there is no way to tan safely” because the UV rays of the tanning bed or the sun “cause the skin to produce melanin,” which is a brown pigment that darkens the skin. However, “when the skin changes color, it [means] that the person has suffered damage that can cause premature aging and even skin cancer.”

Even though neither option is completely safe, the article states that artificial tanning—tanning in tanning beds—is in fact “more dangerous than the sun itself.” The concentrated UV rays are more damaging than natural sunlight in the same way that concentrated sunlight can cause a sunburn, but days in the sun in moderation do not. Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer but it can be prevented with knowledge and careful action. For the insistent tanner, there is a hierarchy of safest to most dangerous ways to get that golden glow.

Safer Ways to Tan

The safest solution is to use a tanning cream, preferably one that adds color gradually. A gradual tanning lotion is better than an overnight one. If the user accidentally gets the lotion too thick in one place a single time, that spot on the body will not be spotty instantly. It takes repeated over application in one place of the body before it turns embarrassingly orange. This type of tanning lotion, in essence, gives for more even coverage.

Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer is a good option because, not only does it darken the skin, it also moisturizes. Using it every day or every other day works—just remember to wash your hands carefully afterwards and don’t put too much in the creases of the heel or hand.

Nvate laying out in the sun skin cancer summer sun screen tanning tanning bed dangers tanning beds tanning cream tans

Credit: Jergens website

Another option is spray tanning, but it has the reputation of turning people orange because it is an “instant tan.” Plus, ABC news released an article on June 12, 2012, stating that “the active chemical used in spray tans, dihydroxyacetone, has the potential to cause genetic alterations and DNA damage, according to a panel of medical experts.”

Still, it is not as dangerous as direct, concentrated UV exposure in tanning beds. The FDA recommends that consumers “request measures to protect their eyes and mucous membranes [to] prevent inhalation” if spray tanning. As for the orange factor, clear spray tans can be used that turn darker gradually rather than “painting” the person orange. This process of tanning is quick enough, but slower than traditional spray tanning. Therefore, this tan creates a better color. Just remember to bring some extra spray tan home to use on the hair line, where the hair net covers during application.

Next on the safety list is outdoor tanning. This requires less concentrated UV exposure, and using a sunscreen, even low SPF, to protect the skin somewhat from the sun is a good idea.

The evidence is clear that tanning of any kind can cause damage to the skin. Still, most people are not going to give up their golden summer glows, unless the motto “pale is the new tan” gains momentum. Staying out of the sun like a “Twilight” vampire is not an option in most climates, anyway, so people will have UV exposure. Therefore, moderation seems to be key.

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