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Adverse Effects of Skin Tanning

May 26, 2022 | Farah Jassawalla

Sun tanning or indoor tanning are common ways to get tanned skin, especially among the light-skinned population. A certain majority of people in America, particularly women, wish to have tanned skin for aesthetic reasons. But it should be kept in mind that skin tanning can have multiple effects on your skin and overall health. 

The sunlight contains UV rays that can be harmful to your skin. When these rays hit your skin, the skin cells increase the production of melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives color to your skin, eyes, and hair. While moderate sunlight is good for your health, prolonged exposure can exhibit serious damage to your skin. Indoor tanning also utilizes the use of such rays. They may be less harsh than sunlight and pose similar risks for your skin. 

You should consider the following before getting outdoor or indoor tanning:

  • Sunburn: Sunburn is a very common side effect of outdoor tanning. Harsh rays from the sun damage the outer, sensitive layers of your skin, resulting in redness and irritation. These outer layers may peel off a few days later due to sunburn. 

  • Premature aging: UV rays from the sun or indoor tanning can disturb the normal aging of skin cells. If you have a habit of skin tanning, you may notice wrinkles, fine lines, or dark spots on your skin earlier than usual. Leathery textured skin is observed in individuals exposed to UV rays for long durations. 

  • Skin cancers: The greatest risk of the sun or indoor tanning is developing skin cancer. It may include squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, or melanoma. The UV rays can alter the DNA of your skin cells, which may result in an overgrowth of cancerous cells. The genes for these cancers can also be transferred from one generation to another. 

  • Actinic keratosis: Actinic or solar keratosis can develop due to prolonged exposure to UV rays. It presents in the form of raised skin bumps or irregular skin texture. Actinic or solar keratosis may be an early sign of skin cancer in some cases. 

  • Eye damage: Excessive exposure to UV rays can increase the risk of photokeratitis and cataracts. Photokeratitis involves damage to the outermost layer of eyes known as the cornea. This can cause burning or irritation in the eyes and reduced vision. Cataracts occur when the natural eye lens becomes clouded. This can also lead to reduced or impaired vision.

  • Weakened immune system: UV rays can also influence your immune system and reduce its efficiency if you’re exposed to them repeatedly over long hours. This can lead to many other skin conditions, including an increased risk of skin cancers. Your skin may become extra sensitive to cosmetic products or topical medications. 

How to prevent adverse effects of UV rays?

Even though skin tanning is common, it is still unsafe for your skin. You can limit the harsh effects of UV rays on your skin in multiple ways. The basic preventive measure is to reduce your exposure time. Moderation should be maintained to get the necessary amount of sunlight for your health, but not too much that it damages your skin. Sunlight is harsh during day time compared to dawn or dusk. So staying outdoors during these hours should be avoided. 

Always wear sunscreen before going outside. This is especially recommended to those who have sensitive skin. Whether going out on a beach or for work purposes, apply sunscreen 10 to 15 minutes before going outdoors. Sunscreen over SPF 30 is suggested for lighter skin tones. You may need to reapply after 2-3 hours once its effect wears off. 

Wear protective clothing that covers the maximum areas of your skin. If it is inevitable during summer, apply sunscreen to all exposed skin regions, including your face, neck, arms, and legs. Protective sunglasses or caps can also help to protect your eyes from intense UV rays. 

If you experience any severe skin-related symptoms after tanning, seek medical care for effective care and reduce further complications. 

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