Sunscreen and Tanning: Myths and Facts
Do you love nothing more than sitting on the beach and getting a "holiday glow"?
You’re not alone. Tanning is big business throughout much of the world. There’s no denying that as a culture, we’re pretty obsessed with being tanned.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a safe tan.
In this article, we expose some of the most persistent myths around tanning and share some facts that could save your skin – and your life.
1. The base tan myth
One of the most persistent and dangerous myths you’re likely to hear is the ‘base tan’ myth. This is the idea that by developing a light base tan, your body is being protected by its own ‘natural sunscreen’. This myth is so persuasive because of a lack of understanding around tanning and skin tone. It’s true that darker skinned people tend to be less prone to skin damage, including skin cancer, however it has nothing to do with being tanned. In fact, tanning is the result of the skin’s exposure to UV rays, which damage the skin and cause a mutation in the DNA. This means that even the slightest tan is an indication of existing damage.
The reason that people with darker skin tones experience less damage is because the higher levels of melanin in their skin slows the effects of DNA damage. You cannot replicate this natural resistance by getting a tan. In fact, you’re putting yourself at unnecessary increased risk.
2. Most skin cancers are easy to treat
Cancers like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are pretty common and aren’t often life threatening. For those who keep an eye on their skin, including getting regular skin cancer check-ups, early detection can mean nothing more than a quick trip to the Doctor to have a troublesome looking mole removed.
However, the unsightly scars that you can receive from having one of the lesser cancers removed is perhaps the least of your worries. Melanomas, of which 90% are caused by sun exposure, are an incredibly dangerous and often deadly form of skin cancer. Exposing yourself to the sun without protection increases your risks of melanoma exponentially.
3. Only UVB rays are dangerous (UVA rays are nothing to worry about)
UVA and UVB rays have different effects on the skin, and unfortunately, many people have very little understanding of the differences between the two. The myth that UVA rays are not dangerous is one example of this lack of understanding.
UVB rays, which have shorter wavelengths and have more energy, were once considered to be the only dangerous form of radiation from the sun. However, plenty of recent studies have shown that UVA rays (which you’ll encounter at tanning studios) are also damaging to skin and can even cause skin cancer and melanoma.
4. Tanning beds are safer than the sun
Thanks to the myth around UVA rays being harmless, many people also believe that tanning beds are safer than the sun. As we’ve mentioned above, the UVA rays emitted by tanning beds are also harmful and can cause damage and even skin cancer.
Health Canada advises the following:
"If you think using tanning equipment that emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation (rays) is a safe way to tan, think again. There is no safe way to tan. Health Canada recommends you do not use tanning equipment (like sunlamps or tanning beds)."
5. Sunscreen is dangerous
One of the more recent myths making the rounds is that sunscreen is dangerous, and that it can even cause cancer. The fact of the matter is that there is no credible research to suggest that sunscreen causes cancer.
In fact, sunscreen is the only way to protect exposed skin from the sun’s damaging rays. The ingredients in most sunscreens these days are safe for use on most skin types, however, there are also many sunscreens on the market which cater to sensitive skin and contain no oil, alcohol or fragrances.
Read our Blogs
"How to choose sunscreen for sensitive skin"
"Benefits of alcohol-free sunscreen"
"Why choose oil-free sunscreen"
6. Skin cancer is only a problem if you burn
Finally, another dangerous tanning myth is that you’re only at risk of skin damage and skin cancer if you burn whilst out in the sun. As we’ve already mentioned above, any exposure to UV rays has the potential to cause damage and result in the mutation of the DNA.
Whether your skin is exposed for a few minutes, or for long enough to get a tan, you’re putting yourself at risk. For those who experience sunburn, this risk is greater. And for those who experience sunburn repeatedly, the risk multiplies further.
That’s why it’s so critical to protect yourself from the sun with a sunscreen with is at least SPF 30, if not higher. When properly applied, SPF 30 sunscreen will block around 97.3% of the sun’s harmful UVB rays, and a broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect the skin against UVA rays. Be sure to wear a sunscreen that is labelled as broad-spectrum and SPF 30 or above, for the best protection.
The KINeSYS range of sunscreens has been developed to be kind to sensitive skin, while providing the highest level of sun protection.
Shop our range of water-resistant, alcohol-free and oil-free sunscreens today, and help protect yourself against the harmful effects of the sun.