Sun Tanning Tips

Our skin contains melanocytes - special cells that produce melanin pigment when stimulated by the sun - and the melanin then provides some protection against further exposure to the sun. If a white-skinned individual spends a lot of time in the sun then his skin will go brown; if he then spends time out of the sun his protective suntan will become unnecessary and it will fade.

At one time, having a suntan was considered socially unacceptable. If you had a tan it meant that you had to work out of doors, that you didn't have servants to shield you with parasols, and that you were a rather inferior sort of individual. Today, a suntan suggests a life among the jet setters, travelling from topless beach to topless beach. And because it is now fashionable to acquire a suntan, thousands of men and women spend their holidays lying on the beach, soaking up the sun's rays.

If you are contemplating acquiring a suntan you should read these notes very carefully:

1 If you have fair or red hair and light blue eyes, you are more likely to develop skin problems as a result of exposure to the sun.

2 If you already have freckles, sunbathing will almost certainly result in the development of more.

3 The latitude, altitude, season and time of day all have an effect on the type of suntan you are likely to get. The sun is more dangerous when high in the sky, when you are near the equator or when the air is thin and relatively unpolluted, as it is on mountain ski slopes. Snow, water, sand and white buildings all reflect the sun's rays and make sunbathing more dangerous.

4 You don't have to sunbathe deliberately to get a suntan. Playing around in the water doesn't protect you from getting suntanned or burnt. Indeed, water reflects the sun's rays. Remember too, that while playing sports such as tennis, exposed areas of skin will tan or perhaps burn.

5 Clothing can provide much-needed protection in very hot climates. Broad-brimmed hats, parasols and long­sleeved, loose-fitting cotton clothes are most useful. Even if you are trying to get a suntan you should take care to wear the right clothing when not sunbathing, or you are likely to end up with an unsightly burn.

6 The best way to get a good tan is to build it up gradually, by sunbathing for a short time each day. Once the tan has developed, you can spend longer in the sun. If you are not careful, pale skin will easily burn.

7 If you are spending time in the sun use a moisturizing cream regularly and on all areas of exposed skin (the tops of the feet, the shoulders and neck are often forgotten).

8 If you want a total sunscreen (to keep out the sun's rays), try zinc oxide cream - this is a barrier cream. Alternatively, heavy foundation cream will help.

9 There is much confusion about what different types of ultraviolet light do. The shorter rays are known as UVB rays while the longer rays are known as UVA rays. Just which rays produce tanning and which do harm is something of a mystery.

10 Remember to reapply sunscreen creams after bathing or lying on a towel. Creams are easily rubbed off - and then you are exposed again.

11 Manufacturers give their creams 'delay factors' - so a cream with a factor of 6 will delay burning for six times as long as normal. These ratings aren't always uniform but they do give some guidance. If you have very sensitive skin, look for a cream with a high factor (10, 12 or 14). If you already have a tan, a cream with a lower factor will suffice.

12 Some creams contain 'accelerators' to increase the rate at which you tan. I'm not convinced that these are safe or worth the extra money. Don't buy them.

13 Creams designed to give an artificial tan are probably harmless enough but don't believe that because you have a false tan you can go out into the sun safely without protection. You can't. You will burn.

14 Do not sunbathe while wearing perfume. Blotchiness can develop and it may be permanent.

15 If you are taking any prescribed drug, be careful.
Blotchiness can develop and may be permanent. Antibiotics, contraceptives, diuretics and tranquillizers have all been shown to cause this problem.

16 If you have a dark skin and tan easily you should still use a moisturizing cream to prevent your skin from drying out.

17 The suns rays are very bad for human skin. They cause dryness, wrinkling, a considerable range of specific problems, and even skin cancer. There is now a considerable amount of evidence to show that people who live in very hot climates suffer from a wide range of skin problems directly as a result of regular exposure to the sun's rays. Sunbathing may produce short-term cosmetic advantages but it will almost certainly produce long-term skin problems (and cosmetic disadvantages).

18 If you intend to expose parts of your body that are normally covered (if you are going for a topless or even an all-over suntan) do be careful. You will need to pay particular attention to those very white areas. And do remember that such delicate areas as nipples can become very sore if exposed to too much sunshine.

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