We all grew up hearing quite a bit of fiction that was presented as fact, with much of it having to do with tanning and the sun. For instance, my mother would always say “Go out and get some sun. It’s good for you.” I later realized that being one of 6 children living in a 2 bedroom apartment may have had something to do with her recommendation to stay outside as long as possible.
Seriously though, your natural skin color is fine the way it is and many of your beliefs about sun exposure and tanning need to be challenged. Every time you tan or have a change in skin color from sun exposure, you are actually increasing your risk of skin cancer at worst, or prematurely aging your skin at best.
The following are a list of the most common sun and tanning fictions I frequently hear from the mouths of generally intelligent people. Chances are that you have heard several of these faux facts at least once in your life:
Fiction: Tanning is a good way for me to get vitamin D.
Fact: Most people get enough vitamin D from food and only about 15 minutes of direct sunlight per day. Also, even if your vitamin D levels are low, you can take supplements that are much less risky than prolonged sun exposure.
Fiction: Getting a good “base tan” helps to protect my skin from the bad effects of the sun.
Fact: Tan skin to any degree is damaged skin. Also, a “base tan” has almost no SPF value in terms of protecting your skin from further damage.
Fiction: Only old people get skin cancer.
Fact: Younger people are getting skin cancer at alarming rates, particularly younger women who supplement their sun exposure with tanning bed use. Melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer, is sadly the third most common cancer among individuals ages 15-39.
Fiction: I need a tan to look good, and I like how the sun feels on my skin.
Fact: For that temporary feeling from the sun, your skin will pay a hefty long-term price. Besides the threat of skin cancer, effects of the sun that do not look so good include fine lines and wrinkles, sagging skin, age spots, and even cataracts.
Fiction: Tanning beds are a safe and controlled way to get a tan.
Fact: A tanning bed tan is still damaging the skin. You can still get a burn in a tanning bed. Additionally, there have been reports in the medical literature of other skin problems originating from tanning salon use, including rashes and warts.
These are just a few of the fictional “wisdom” I hear every week. I try to correct these misimpressions whenever I come across them.
Especially when enjoying the summer weather that we all richly deserve after this past winter, don’t forget your SPF 30 or greater sunscreen. Wear your hat and sunglasses. Seek the shade when sitting outside for prolonged periods.
If you have any questions about these issues or any other aesthetic skin concerns, please do not hesitate to call us at (207) 873-2158 to ask. You can also schedule a free consultation, or seek treatment for a specific problem.