Someone asked me this question after I gave one of my usual discussions about being religious about sunblock at all times. I have to admit that the answer to this question is not black or white. Allow me to explain.
People actually do need regular sun exposure to get enough vitamin D, which is vital for calcium metabolism and bone health. Your body uses ultraviolet light to convert building blocks of chemicals in your skin into vitamin D. The average person needs only a few minutes of sun exposure per day to the face and arms in the summer and up to 15 minutes in the winter to satisfy this need. Remember also that vitamin D is fortified in many foods such as milk and bread, and is included in most multivitamin tablets.
Indoor tanning is no safer than natural sunbathing, although tanning lamps do emit the vitamin D-inducing (and also cancer causing) UVB rays. The tanning beds also emit UVA rays that contribute to premature loss of collagen and elastin. In short, losing these skin chemicals results in more wrinkles, obviously making you look older.
Many people talk about getting a “BASE tan”, which is using tanning beds or early season sunbathing to protect their skin. However, a light base tan is only equivalent to about a SPF 4, which is little protection from sun damage such as burning. The darker the tan becomes over the summer after the base tan signifies ongoing UV radiation damage and all of its destructive effects.
Fortunately, for people that want color to their skin, spray-on tans and sunless tanning lotions are safe. The active ingredient in most solutions affects only the outermost layer of the skin and therefore fades as the skin naturally exfoliates. It should be noted that although the skin is tanned with these solutions, they do NOT provide any SPF or UV protection. You still need to use adequate sunscreens with these tanners when you plan to be out in the real sun.
The blog post is a long-winded way of saying that you do not need to be afraid of the sun, but you need to respect it for its power for good and for harm. Like lots of other things in life, an ounce of protection (sunblock) is worth a pound of cure (everything we do to correct sun damage: lasers, fillers, topical products, etc.). So especially in times of good weather and longer days, get out and enjoy the good weather while it is here, but be sure to protect yourself so you can put your best face forward.
Meanwhile, if you have any other questions concerning this article and any other skin issues, please leave a comment on our blog or call our office directly at (207) 873-2158 or email through our website.