A number of experts all over the world have found conclusive evidence that the risk of using tanning beds or tanning booths is far worse than natural sunlight. Many experts believe that the risks of skin cancer caused by sunbeds is more than double the risk that one would face under the Mediterranean summer sun. According to these studies, 9 out of the 10 beds that were tested emitted UV radiation at levels which were about twice the recommended limit. As a result of these findings, the World Health Organization has already classified sunbeds alongside cigarettes on the list of the worst cancer causing habits and substances.
According to experts, tanning your skin under the sun can be almost as harmful as using artificial sources. You are bound to face skin damage, skin aging and are likely to be susceptible to skin cancer. To better understand the reasons behind the damage, you need to understand the tanning process. UV radiation is present at one end of the spectrum of light that travels to the earth from the sun. At the end of the spectrum, the wavelengths range from 100 – 400 nanometers and are classified as UVA, UVB and UVC (longest to shortest). The UVA rays are the ones that penetrate the skin and cause tanning, the UVB rays are responsible for damaging the external skin cells and causing sunburn and the UVC rays are considered to be harmless. It is also believed that the UVA rays are the main cause for photo aging and skin cancer. On the other hand, tanning beds use fluorescent bulbs which mostly emit UVA rays along with a small amount of UVB rays. The UVA radiation in the booth is known to have an intensity which is thrice the intensity of natural sunlight.
Despite these obvious harmful effects, the cases of malignant melanomas have been on the rise all over the world. The rates have risen dramatically over the past 30 years, a rise which is considered to be faster than any other form of cancer. According to a study conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, people who begin indoor tanning before they reach the age of 35 have a 75% chance of developing a melanoma. Professor Harry Moseley, a consultant medical physicist at the University of Dundee, is also known to be quite worried for the health and safety of the young generation. He stated that the obvious failures of the sunbed industry are placing the younger generation at an even greater risk of skin cancer than was previously being projected.
He also stated that people needed to be encouraged to ensure that they take care of their skin. Otherwise, cases of skin cancer and malignant melanomas are likely to increase with every passing year, not just in the US, but all over the world.
Despite what your friends or peers might tell you, embracing your natural skin tone and protecting it from the harmful UV radiation is the best and the safest option available at your disposal. However, if you must tan, here are a few options that you may be interested in trying out and a few options that you would want to avoid at all costs.
Tanning Alternative # 1 – Airbrushing
The process of airbrushing involves the use of airbrushes to apply tanning solutions as a form of sunless tanning that can help to simulate the appearance of a natural tan. This form of tanning is normally promoted as a much healthier and safer alternative to the long term effects of the sun and is mostly performed by companies who also offer other alternatives to tanning such as sun beds.
How does it work?
The process works by altering the pigment color of the topmost layer of the skin, i.e., the dead skin. According to the manufacturers, the dye does not harm the layers of the skin as the first layer is dead. The airbrushing technique can be found in a number of spas, beauty salons and specialized tanning stations. Moreover, it is applied by professionals and it ensures that the tan is properly distributed all through the body.
How long does it last?
The process is known to last for approximately one week, but it can be prolonged if you use a moisturizer. That being said, most tanning companies argue that you can easily get it reapplied after a week to enjoy a continuous tan for a long period of time.
Warnings: The downfalls of using airbrushing
Despite its obvious attractions, there are a number of downfalls of using airbrushing as your preferred tanning medium.
- After an airbrushing session, you cannot take a bath for about 8 hours. When you take your first bath, you can only take a shower and not scrub your body.
- You need to wear loose fitting clothes after the session as it takes about 6 hours for the tan to set.
- Airbrushing creates a sense of falseness about your looks and some believe it reduces your natural beauty
- Airbrushing can give you a fake appearance that seems to be too plastic.
- The process can stain your skin as well as your clothing, thereby making it a messy way to get your glow.
- Another major disadvantage of airbrushing is that it lasts for just about 7 days as the tan begins to wear off the moment the dead cells are shed off by the body. This can make airbrushing costs and inconvenience add up.
- Finally, airbrushing can increase the chance of cancer. Some tanning solutions contain DHA, an ingredient that can cause DNA damage and genetic alterations if inhaled.
Tanning Alternative # 2 – Sunless Tanning Lotions
Sunless tanning lotion is one of the most practical alternatives to natural tanning. It allows people to prevent exposure to the harmful rays of the sun and still manage to get that sun-kissed glow. What makes it so popular is that it is considered to be one of the most effective products and can be self-applied as well.
How does it work?
Sunless tanning lotions, also known as self-tanners, are considered to be the most effective sunless tanning products available. Most of these lotions contain DHA, an ingredient that interacts with the dead cells in the upper layer of your epidermis and brings about a color change. These products allow you to get a tanned look without getting exposed to the harmful UV rays. Some of these products might not contain sunscreen. Those that do, usually are not very strong and will only act as a deterrent for the sun’s rays for a couple of hours. Therefore, it is essential to apply sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s rays.
How long does it last?
The color change is known to last for approximately 5 –7 days from the date of application as it mostly affects your dead cells.
Warnings: The downfalls of using sunless tanning lotions
Like any other tanning product, the sunless tanning lotions have a number of downfalls as well.
- The biggest disadvantage of using a sunless tanning lotion is that it is quite difficult to apply the lotion evenly. This can result in streaking and end up ruining your appearance.
- Sunless tanning lotions are also known to be pricey. Good lotions are not as cheap as most other cosmetics and they don’t last very long. As a result, people need to keep buying them from time to time in order to stay tanned. Furthermore, to get an even look, getting professional help or visiting tanning salons becomes important. These professionals also charge a large sum of money to give you that perfect tan.
- Apart from the economic and practical disadvantages, there are a number of health disadvantages associated with sunless tanning lotions as well. People suffering from asthma cannot use such lotions and there are several lotions that can harm your eyes if they come in contact.
Tanning Alternative # 3 – Bronzers
A Bronzer is a liquid or powder cosmetic that helps you to give your face or body a radiant glow without having to expose yourself to the harmful rays of the sun. However, bronzers are not even close to tanning lotions and other forms of tanning as they are known to be a temporary solution. Your bronzers do not last more than your makeup and simply wash away.
How does it work?
Cosmetic Bronzers are available in the form of lotions, creams and powders. They can be used to get an immediate tanned look and are known to be stop gap solutions to your tanning problems. A bronzer is normally used for touch-up tanning and to hide imperfections. However, most women consider bronzers to be a form of makeup rather than an alternative to tanning as the tint only lasts until it is washed off.
How long does it last?
Bronzers don’t last very long. In fact, most bronzers do not last longer than your makeup and they can wear off the moment you wash them away.
Warnings: The downfalls of using bronzers
Despite their obvious disadvantages, tanning products have become quite popular in the recent years. While all tanning products are known to harm your skin in one way or the other, bronzers are among the safest options available. Even so, these bronzers are not free from issues.
- The biggest issue is that a bronzer can only be used as a means of touch up since it washes away along with the rest of your makeup.
- Bronzers can only be considered to be stop gap solutions and are a pricey long term tanning solution due to how little they last.
Tanning Alternative # 4 – Tanning Towels
Tanning Towels are an effective and simple alternative to natural tanning. They not only help you to protect your sun from the UV rays of the sun, but also allow you to get a uniform tan all over your body.
How does it work?
All Tan Towels contain an ingredient known as DHA (Dihydroxyacetone) which is known to affect the superficial layer of your skin to give you a tanned look. When you wipe the towel over your skin, this DHA works with the proteins and amino acids present in the superficial layer of your skin to give you a natural looking tan. The biggest advantages of using these tanning towels are that they offer a uniform look and do not stain your clothes in any manner whatsoever. It takes about 2 Tanning Towels for a full body application. After applying the tan, you need to allow 2 – 3 hours for the tan to appear.
How long does it last?
The effects of tanning towels are known to last for about 5 – 7 days. You need to reapply these towels every week if you’re looking for a long term tanning solution.
Warnings: The downfalls of using tanning towels
There are a few disadvantages of using tanning towels as well.
- One of the main disadvantages is that using these towels can lead to disastrous results if you’re not careful while applying them. Your skin might end up looking streaky or blotchy, which would allow everyone to understand that you’re sporting a fake tan.
- Your skin needs to be prepared with a range of applications such as shaving and exfoliation before you can use these tanning towels.
- Tanning Towels rely on DHA to give you that perfect looking tan. This DHA can be extremely harmful to the human body.
Tanning Alternative # 5 – Tanning Pills
Sunless tanning alternatives might be a practical way of getting that perfect tanned look, but tanning pills are a strict no. Tanning pills contain color additive canthaxanthin, an ingredient which is considered to be extremely unsafe for the human body. When canthaxanthin is taken in large amounts, it can turn the skin to turn brown or orange, impair your vision, cause hives or lead to liver damage. These canthaxanthin based tanning pills are also known to have dangerous side effects such as canthaxanthin retinopathy and hepatitis.
Things to do before you tan
Here are a few tips on how to prepare your skin for the tanning process. You need to ensure that you prepare your skin thoroughly in order for the tanning process to be successful.
- Exfoliation – A thorough exfoliation is extremely important as the tanning process only affects the superficial layer of your skin. As a result, it is important to get rid of the old blood cells in order to increase the effectiveness of the tan.
- Getting Manicures and Pedicures – Getting a manicure and a pedicure is equally important. You don’t really want those perfect looking looks and pathetic looking hands and feet.
Hopefully our guide has given you some good options for sunless tanning. What is your favorite way to tan (or not)? Let us know in the comments below!