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Tanning your hide

August 7, 2010

When I was a teenager back in grey old England hopping on a sunbed to ‘prepare’ yourself for your two weeks on the Costa Brava was THE thing to do.  Go to any health club, council run gymnasium or spa and for around five of your English pounds you could get your hide tanned!   In fact, they became so popular that we even had one at home and I remember my friends queuing up at lunch time to have a few minutes of tanning time (I lived next door to the high school). Nice!  BUT it is looking increasingly un-nice as study after study find out what we all suspected, sunbeds are killing us. I stopped using one over 15 years ago in my case, the damage may already be done…….

Sun beds or solarium use powerful ultraviolet lights to simulate the suns rays and while the ones that I used back in the early 1990’s took around 30 minutes to give you a tanning dose,  modern machines can tan you in as little as 6 minutes which shows just how powerful they have become.  The main problem with solarium tanning from a scientific perspective is that the mix of UVA and UVB is not always ‘natural’  – they typically dish out more UVA than regular old sun (the tan without burning scenario) and this can cause problems. UVA light penetrates much deeper into the skin than UVB and has the potential to damage the skin from within. At the very least it is one of the main causes of premature ageing!  But going back to the mix of light used, our skin has adapted to life on this planet and as such ‘tells’ us when we have had enough by feeling hot, tingling, going a little red and eventually burning or tanning. Some of us don’t even get any real visible signs, we just start to feel sick and tired due to the radiation!   So, exposing our skin to ‘fake’ sunshine gives it a problem. It isn’t ‘natural’ and so it could take either a longer or a shorter time to produce the ‘get out of here’ response in us which could and often does leave us vulnerable.

Study after study has linked solarium use to melanoma and one new study showed that participants who started using sunbeds before they turned twenty or reported to having had more than 10 sunbed sessions during their life doubled their risk of melanoma.  Yikes!

Well, I think that we all know now that there is no such thing as a safe tan but like many things in life we choose to dabble anyway. I know that it may be controversial but if you HAVE to get a tan, it may be better to get one naturally as at least your skin and the sun recognise each other. However, the best advice would be to admire the sun from afar and spend that sunbed money on a nice fake tan, some chocolate or give it to the cancer council.

Keep premature ageing at bay – practice safe sun.

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