SOYOUWANNA GET A (RELATIVELY) SAFE TAN?
Thank God it's summer - time to put away those bulky sweaters and whip out your newest tankini/Speedo. But there's one problem: you're so pale that mimes are hailing you as their new leader. You definitely need a little bit of color, but you're also worried about going outside with all of those dangerous UV rays raining down on you.
We have to make one thing crystal clear: there is no such thing as a "safe" tan. By going out in the sun unprotected, you risk:
- Getting wrinkly early-aged skin
- Getting nasty, painful sunburns
- Getting skin cancer
This year, 56,900 new cases of skin cancer will be reported; most of these people (not so coincidentally) don't take care of their skin when out in the sun. So how can you get a relatively safe tan? Did you not read the name of this SYW? We're about to tell you, so sit tight and read on.god or goddess is to figure out what all those strange abbreviations mean.
Sunscreen vs. Sunblock
Providing a definition of "tanning" isn't as stupid as it seems. A tan occurs when the skin absorbs ultraviolet radiation (commonly called "UV rays"). As a response, the skin produces a substance known as melanin, which darkens the skin's outer layers. While many believe that a tan makes us appear healthier, a tan is actually a sign that the skin has been damaged. It's similar to the beginning stages of a burn.
"UV index" is just a fancy term given to the way scientists measure how much ultraviolet radiation is hitting the earth's surface at a given point in the day. UV is an invisible light that is always present, though in varying degrees. There are actually two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. They're both bad, so you'll want to make sure that your tanning products specify that they guard against both.
The actual index is measured from 0 to 10+, so if you're considering sunbathing, it's a good idea to flip on the weather channel or check out a map and see the day's UV index. The higher the number on the index, the greater the amount of exposure you will have to ultraviolet radiation. So you MUST be careful of the sun on days with a high UV index. If you stay in the sun too long, you will burn and peel and then you will be beached like a whale cause it will hurt to move.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. All sunscreens are given a number between 4 and 30 so you'll have to determine which one is best for you. Most dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15. However, the level of protection a person needs is usually based upon his/her tanning history. For example, people with pale complexions who should shoot for a SPF of 30, while people with darker complexions may need a SPF of as little as 4. To be safe, its always best to ask a pharmacist which SPF would work best for you. And since most drugstores have pharmacists, you can get this info for free. Good thing too, since you'll probably need extra dough to buy all the beer that you'll likely find on sale in the aisle next to the sunblock.
Sunscreen vs. Sunblock
While most people lump sunscreen and sunblock together, they are actually very different products intended for different uses.
- Sunscreen is a cream or lotion that is SPF rated. It reacts with the skin to create an invisible barrier against the sun. The strength of the barrier is determined by the SPF number. The lower the number the less protection. Most sunscreens should be applied 20 minutes before you go outside so that it has time to work. Using a sunscreen will not prevent you from tanning but it will lower your risk of getting burned.
- Sunblock doesn't have a SPF because it protects the body from all UV rays. Usually, sunblock is a thick cream that should contain zinc oxide (this is the white gunk that you sometimes see people put on their noses - it's funny looking, but it's strong). Okay here's where it gets tricky. Some sunscreens with SPF numbers of 15 or higher are erroneously refereed to as sunblocks. If you want a sunblock, don't buy a package with a SPF listed because a true sunblock won't need it.