Get Tan by Tanning

In much of the modern world a sun tan is considered attractive so it's not surprising that so many people pursue looking for this attractive quality in the cheapest and easiest way possible - tanning in the sun. Surprisingly even in this day and age in the twenty-first century many people still don't understand the risks of sun damage to human skin. Many folks that do think that they're aware of the sun's harmful rays often times don't really have a full understanding of the risks that tanning can promote whether it's in a tanning bed, sun tanning, or even some of the spray tans or tanning lotions that are marketed as safe. Fortunately there is some science behind this matter and many of the sunless tanning options are in fact safe. With proper moderation and safeguards getting actual sun can be good for you, for your outward appearance as well as your overall health.

Sunscreen in it's current form is actually a relatively modern invention. It wasn't until 1978 that the first SPF was released. Now thirty plus years later most consumers of sun tan products don't even really understand the SPF ratings, they just know that higher SPF ratings mean more protection (which is partially true) without really giving any thought to what the right suntan protection is. There are a number of variables to consider including how a user will be exposed to the sun, during what hours of the day this will take place (direct sun light is stronger and consequently can be more damaging), the current complexion of the user (fair skinned individuals are far more prone to harmful sun burns that can cause both immediate short term physically pain and have long term consequences that increase the likelihood of cancer like melanoma). It isn't just suntan lotion that is a creation of the 1900's, almost every thing the world knows today about tanning (including it's popularity) arose within about the last hundred years. For much of history bronzing was considering a negative thing to let happen to one's skin and it had nothing to do with the dangerous effects of overexposure to the sun that we are now familiar with. The difference between being darkened by the sun's rays or having a fair complexion was directly associated with social class and standing within the community. For much of time societies have treated the common worker or day laborer differently than the higher ups that occupy the elite classes that spend their time comfortably in shaded bliss while the lower classes struggle in fields all day under the hot sun. Varying levels of sun exposure are quickly evident when glancing at anyone's skin tone. The citizens at the top of the hierarchy had the fairest skin while the lowest levels of society had the darkest pigment as a result of performing work during bright days for years. This separation of class lasted for a very long time and is still to some extent a tradition that's carried on in parts of the world. It wasn't until the end of what's known as the Victorian era (which lasted until roughly 1901) that people for better or worse began associating sun tans with healthy vibrant skin. Despite all of the dangers of overexposure to the sun it's long been known that at least one of the Sun's positive qualities is that it can be the best source for Vitamin D. Not having enough Vitamin D can cause many ailments that weren't properly understood until the early twentieth century. Even today it's important for people that live in areas that receive very little daylight during certain seasons (people living close to the North or South Poles) to supplement Vitamin D into their diets during the times of the year when they aren't exposed to adequate sunlight. Among the many illnesses that this new discovery helped eradicate were rickets and lupus. Both illnesses are now barely remembered in our modern world but were once tremendous issues before exposure to the Sun was found to help solve these medial ailments by promoting the natural production of Vitamin D in our own bodies. While people have always understood the short term painful effects of sun burns that are the result of too many rays in too short of time without sufficient protection the long term medical effects weren't fully understood in the early nineteen hundreds. It was during the 1920's and 1930's that sun tans really took off in popularity. This initial surge in pop culture relevance began in Europe and was the result of popular figures in fashion and music beginning to wear sun tans that their fans adored and quickly followed suit in an effort to emulate their idols. It was in France specially where the popularity of sun bathing really took hold. Fueled by celebrities sporting tanned skin and the therapeutic effects of moderate sun exposure the fad of having tanned skin took off in a way that has barely slowed down until this day. History continued to unfold in a way that produced products the masses wanted. Baby oil began being used as a tool for accelerating the tanning effect. In this way baby oil (still used as a tanning aid today) became the first tanning lotion (read more here). The bikini swimwear suit was first introduced in the 1940's causing a stir in conservative circles that to some extend has never waned. The first self tanning lotion appeared on the market in the 1950's and was notorious for leaving the skin an unwanted orange color (I guess some things never change). The still popular sun screen Coppertone first hit the market in 1953 and from the very beginning has used the same logo with the little girl and the cocker spaniel dog (pictured below). 1978 was a defining year for tanning as it saw both the first tanning bed and SPF sunscreen. Even while the western world had gone crazy over getting tan by tanning parts of Eastern cultures still stick to their roots that view tanned skin as an undesirable feature. Most notable is the Japanese geisha that has long been renowned for beauty exhibited with a fair skinned face. In still developing countries like India dark skin is largely associated with lower classes because these are still the citizens that have no other choice than to work in hot outdoor labor environments.

Why is tanning such a prevalent feature in modern society today even though we know that there are many long term health risks including skin cancer? The culture of getting tans all over our bodies has become possibly the most dangerous instance of society shaping impressionable young people. Eventual skin cancer as a result of sun burns obtained during one's youth could be responsible for more deaths than any peer pressure resulting from cigarettes or alcohol causes. In an effort to look beautiful many young girls and young men do permanent long term damage to their bodies in the hopes of being more popular or desirable to the opposite sex. Reversing a cultural thought process like this is a difficult one. Even intelligent people that are aware of the long term damage the Sun can cause think of many ways to justify overexposure to the Sun. Young people will put on too little sunscreen and then assume this insufficient level of protection is adequate for the entire day when in fact it is not. Even today a lot of of people both young and old don't realize that they can still get burnt on a cloudy day because of the UV rays that easily escape the cloud cover. These are still conditions in which sun tan lotion is necessary. There is some recent uncertainty as to exactly how bad sun exposure is and what the trade offs are for not getting enough sun light. Some rogue dermatologists have come out with recent studies suggesting that in the proper moderation sun exposure is actually an extremely positive thing for our health. These doctors point out that their studies indicate the trade off of positive effects of responsible sun exposure far outweighs the negative impact the "harmful" rays can have. These recent studies point to a number of benefits that are beyond the traditional realm of sun tanning including minimizing the risk of diabetes and other disorders. Still many traditional dermatologist are pushing what they consider to be the safest agenda and that is that all the necessary Vitamin D can be ingested through supplements and that any excess sun exposure is a harmful risk not worth taking - particularly for the pursuit of vain interests like a tanned skin look for cosmetic purposes.

Suntanning has become an entire industry and part of that industry is the attire for sunbathing and sometimes that entire is no attire at all. Both topless and nude sunbathing occur all over the world and with varying degrees of acceptability. There are nude beaches were sun bathers are free to completely disrobe which allows for even tans without tan lines which some people consider to be unsightly. Tan lines that have very noticeable marks around the shirt sleeves and shorts areas are jokingly called "farmer's tans" and are generally not considered attractive or sexy. In areas where nude or topless sunbathing is not allowed sun bathers still find ways to push the social decency limits by minimizing what covers their skin - this is often manifested with very minimal swimsuits like microkinis. If there are no clothing optional beaches in your area (or beaches in general) a private backyard is often a substitute for people to comfortable bear all. Sunglasses are common for keeping the sun out of eyes and people even like to alternate varying styles in order to minimize getting a sunglasses tan on their face. Sometimes when the whole face is tanned or burnt except for the area around the eyes people will call this looking like a raccoon because of the distinctive mask that raccoons share with the look that the sunglasses tanned person has. Tanning goggles are commonly worn in tanning beds and these protect the eyes while providing minimal cover other than the eyeballs. Wearing these tanning bed goggles even when outside can be an effective way to reduce sun glass tans around the eyes. These goggles are one of many products that are made for protecting sensitive body parts from the harm caused by damaged skin. Keeping private parts safe from tanning should also be a concern. It's not safe to overexpose any skin to harmful rays and this is particularly true of the most sensitive areas both in terms of thinness of skin, reproductive purposes, and general lack of tolerance build up as a result of minimal sun exposure over the course of ones lifetime. It should go without saying but all sun tanners including those occasionally doing it in the nude or naked in tanning beds should take precaution to make sure their genitalia is properly safe from the effects of sun burn. It's a very unpleasant topic to think about but an even worse situation if you don't think about it and properly safeguard your most sensitive areas from the cooking effect of the sun's rays. Spray tanning or tanning lotions are the best alternatives for these very sensitive areas.

Have you ever wondered why some people get tan more easily than others? It's apparent that genetics and family history like where our ancestors come from play a role in our tolerance and response to direct sunlight. Scientists have actually tackled this subject to isolate what they're calling the "tan gene." Technicians in labs have isolated a genetic strand of DNA that they believe is responsible for telling our bodies how to behave and respond to the Sun's rays. While there aren't expected to be any vaccines from sun burns anytime soon there is the promising outlook that as we better understand skin conditions we can translate that lab knowledge into helping people deal with real world issues as serious as pigmentation problems and those on the other end of the spectrum as mundane as freckles. Understanding exactly how the melanin in our bodies works is the foundation for all science that relates to sun tans and the positive and negative attributes that we know are associated with it. While the latest data is still in trial stages it's important that all of us regardless of our genetic dispositions inform ourselves as to the best ways to minimize the negative effects tans can have on our bodies. Determining what is the proper amount of sun exposure and what the proper levels of safe guards are is the key to reducing the risk of skin cancer - the ultimate adverse effect of overexposure to the sun.

Tanning and skin cancer have been linked for some time and there's no denying that too much sun and the cumulative effect of sunburns has a negative effect on our bodies than can be fatal over time. There are simple steps to protect your skin or epidermis (as it's scientifically known as) and many are simple (being in the shade), many are known but not properly practiced (wearing sunscreen), and still others are less understood (like exactly what UV protection sunglasses should be). While the American Academy of Dermatology recommends avoiding the sun entirely we know that just isn't practical. Some tips for avoiding sun damage include wearing a hat with a brim (like a baseball cap) when outdoors and anti-UV sunglasses are smart moves. When buying sunglasses ask about the UV protection. UV protection is not standard with all cheap sunglasses and even some designer sunglasses don't offer what ought to be a standard feature. Be especially cautious around water and snow. Even on days when it's not particularly hot or bright sunburns are very common as a result of sunlight reflecting off of lakes or snowy mountainsides when people are skiing or snowboarding. The worst burns can be the result of the times when they're least expected. By reading these tanning warnings you're a step ahead of the game. Properly applying sunscreen for maximum effect is not a practice that's well understood. For optimal protection apply sun tan lotion about half an hour before being out in the sun and then reapply a second light coat after being exposed for another half an hour. Take careful precaution to reapply more often if you're doing something that might wash the sunscreen off like playing beach volleyball, swimming, or anything else that would cause you to sweat or get wet. If you're participating in any of these activities you'll probably want to buy waterproof sun screen which can be found in most any drug store. Don't take for granted that one application of tanning lotion is sufficient for an entire day.

Not surprisingly the times when sun damage is most common is when the Sun is at it's peak between 10 AM and 4 PM. Rays are strongest in higher altitudes, closer to the equator, and in the Summer - basically when you're closest to the sun you're at the most risk. An interesting rule of thumb is that if a person's shadow is shorter than they are that means they're in a time and location when they risk for sun burn is highest. Take extra precautions if you often find yourself in these situations. Long sleeved clothing and breaks from the sun in the shade are recommended. Don't take chances with your health. When applying sunscreen particularly in these high risk zones it's important to put on a sufficient layer to adequately cover the skin from being burnt. There is a trade off between applying a satisfactory thick layer and having a high enough SPF. In order for the advertised SPF rating to actualize a somewhat thick layer needs to be applied. If doing so seems uncomfortable (personal preference) consider upgrading to a higher SPF to offset the thickness of the application. If you're wondering, "what does SPF stand for?" the answer is that it's an acronym for Sun Protection Factor. This protection factor demonstrates the effectiveness of protection against UV-B rays. SPF is a relative term and is indicative of the amount of times your natural level of sun protection within your skin is increased. For example SPF 12 creates a layer that in order to burn your skin would result in twelve times the exposure that it would take for a normal sun burn to occur.

Check back for future posts that will address tips for holding a tan in (lotion, shower, etc.), the aging effects tanning has on our bodies with relation to wrinkles and other aging indicators, tanning bed safety as opposed to alternative sunless tanning methods like the currently popular spray tan, reviews of self tanning lotions, and many more interesting pieces of information.