A bronzed suntan can be a beautiful look for anyone trying to give the appearance of the summertime. Since Coco Chanel popularized it back in the 1920s, tanned skin has been one of the biggest accessories to a summer wardrobe, and many people have tried to get it by tanning out in the sun.
However, if you go too far, you’re going to turn red instead of bronze. With a suntan, the skin is developing melanin to try and protect itself from the sun, whereas the reddening is a sign that the skin has been overly damaged.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 42% of people polled reported getting a sunburn at least once a year. Here’s what you need to know about sunburns, suntanning, and keeping your cool even if your skin is red and painful.
The Sun Isn’t Just Aging, It Can Be Deadly
There are many aging effects of the sun—wrinkles, sunspots, and dullness of the skin. Plus, if you’ve had sunburns in your 20s, those aging effects may not have shown up yet and may appear seemingly out of nowhere when they do in your 30s or 40s.
Although aging is an important reason to avoid burning, however, skin cancer is even more critical. If you had just one bad sunburn as a child, equivalent to about five total as an adult, you’re at double risk for developing melanoma. And the more sunburns you have, the worse that risk is.
To protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays, it’s best to avoid sun exposure as much as possible, especially during peak sun hours, which are usually between 10 am and 4 pm. If you are going to go out in the sun, use sunscreen and sun-protective clothing, such as coverups and hats.
Tanning beds can be just as bad as the natural sun, and sometimes even worse. The UV radiation from a tanning bed is incredibly harmful, and even just a single session in a tanning bed significantly increases your risk of skin cancer.
Oops: I Had A Little Too Much Fun In The Sun
Even if you understand the risks of the sun and try to protect yourself, no one’s perfect. If you’ve discovered that your sunscreen wasn’t as effective as you thought it was and you’re facing a sunburn, here are a few steps that can mitigate discomfort and general damage.
- Identify the burn as soon as it happens. If you’re outside and feel your skin itching, stinging, or turning pink, you’re well on your way to a sunburn. Get out of the sun immediately and administer treatment.
- Take a cool bath or shower. While it certainly doesn’t need to be ice-cold, a cooling bath or shower can make you feel more comfortable and stop burning.
- After taking a bath or shower, apply moisturizers to the skin. You may use aloe vera gel, Noxema, and even coconut oil.
- Take ibuprofen or aspirin. These are over-the-counter medications that have anti-inflammatory effects. They can help with the pain and reduce swelling.
- Stay hydrated. Your skin will lose lots of fluids as it tries to repair itself, and that can lead to dehydration.
If you develop blisters, this is a sign of a second-degree burn, which is especially bad. Visit the doctor if you’re concerned, and don’t pop the blisters yourself.
But I Still Love The Look Of A Beautiful Tan!
No need to worry. Nowadays, there are many options available to achieve a beautiful, natural-looking bronze glow that doesn’t damage your skin. Especially if you haven’t looked at the options in some time, you might be surprised at your opportunities.
You can find tanning lotions, creams, sprays, and mousses in all price ranges. While the earlier versions tended to have an “orange” cast that clearly gave away the spray tan, manufacturers have improved considerably, and you may even be able to pick up a great product at the drugstore.
Additionally, many self-tanners have nearly foolproof application features, like convenient towelettes and lotions that give an extremely gradual tan, allowing you to build up the tan over multiple days so it’s exactly the right amount of glow.
If you’re looking for an absolutely perfect result, consider visiting a salon to get an airbrush tan. The stylist will spray the product directly on your body, ensuring even coverage and allowing you to contour your body perfectly, giving you a gorgeous look no matter what appearance you’re going for.
It’s always important to remember that sunless tanning products don’t provide protection against the sun unless the product contains SPF. If you have a sunless tanning product, you should still use sunscreen and choose protective clothing.
This summer, enjoy the sun while still being cautious with these options.