Guest post by: Jane Neville Dudik, Acne Treatment Center
Last time I explained how UVA produces a tan, and that a tan is an immune response to protect your skin's DNA.
But if it is so bad for you skin, how did tanning become so popular?
It actually started with one very influential woman.
Many people believe a tan looks beautiful and rich.
From the middle ages on to the end of the 19th century, a tan was a sign of poverty. You had a tan if you had to work in the fields.
Wealthier people prized their light skin. Women went to great lengths to preserve their peaches and cream complexions with extravagant hats and parasols and gloves.
With the advent of the industrial revolution, impoverished people also began to have paler skin as they went to work in factories with little natural light, so light skin was no longer a sign of wealth.
But the beginning of tan-as-beautiful happened in 1923 after Coco Chanel returned from a Mediterranean cruise sporting a golden tan, and people were stunned.
They wanted that look!
The look of having just returned from the Mediterranean. Thus began a century of aging skin and the heartbreak of skin cancer.
And it seems it is not enough to damage your skin naturally.
Tanning beds are built to radiate UVA exclusively because UVA is unlikely to give you a sunburn.
But UVA is incredibly destructive to the skin and it causes melanoma.
Tanning beds are cancer boxes.
Clients tell me that they just want to get a base of tan before they go into the sun.
That is a little like saying you want to get a base of scab before you cut yourself. A tan does give slight protection, but it is the equivalent of SPF 2.
They also will tell me that they use a tanning bed for the Vitamin D.
But tanning beds are all UVA and Vitamin D is only made from UVB. So that's a bad excuse.
Vitamin D supplements are far safer.
Tanning bed addiction
Some people actually get addicted to tanning because it causes the brain to release endorphins, so they make up all kinds of reasons to get in the tanning bed, even after they understand that it is damaging the largest organ in their body.
Often women, but quite a few men too, will begin to notice these changes in their 30s and will visit an esthetician in hopes of fixing these unattractive signs of aging.
Most do not want to hear that they need to protect themselves from the sun.
Your most important weapon
The first and most important weapon you have against 'aging' skin is getting a good broad-spectrum sunscreen and wearing it every single day even if you aren’t planning to go outside.
What makes a sunscreen broad spectrum?
Isn’t a good SPF of 35 fine?
SPF, short for sun-protection-factor is only telling you how much UVB, the burning ray, you are protected against.
I am not saying you don’t need to be protected from UVB. You do.
But even if you had an SPF of 100 it wouldn’t stop the UVA rays from getting into your skin.
To stop UVA, the sunscreen has to be 'broad spectrum.'
There are two ways to make a sunscreen broad spectrum:
1) Incorporate a broad spectrum chemical sunscreen, most commonly used are:
- Titanium Dioxide
- Zinc Oxide
Chemical sunscreens vs Physical sunscreens
Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV rays and holding them against the surface of your skin so they cannot penetrate.
Physical sunscreen work by reflecting the rays away from your skin.
Different sunscreen ingredients protect against different parts of the UV spectrum and it isn’t quite as simple as UVA vs UVB.
Some can protect against UVA I but not UVA II and some vice versa.
The only sunscreen that protects against the whole UV spectrum from 290 nm to 400 nm is Zinc Oxide
When I was young you could see lifeguards wearing zinc oxide on their noses looking stark white.
Since those days, cosmetic chemists have learned to micronize the zinc and depending on the formulation it can disappear against the skin.
Some of the most effective sunscreens are blends of different sunscreen ingredients, but chemical sunscreens can induce unwanted reactions in the skin.
Because zinc is a mineral, it causes very little reaction in the skin.
If you have had a bad experience with a zinc based sunscreen, I can almost guarantee it was another ingredient in the deck that was troubling your skin.
If you are already sun-damaged, is there any point in wearing sunscreen?
Oh my, yes!
First of all, wherever you are when you start, I can promise you that by wearing sunscreen your skin will be better ten years from now than it will be if you don’t wear sunscreen.
However, I am sorry to say just wearing sunscreen is not the whole answer. Sunscreens are screens, not blocks.
They are only part of the answer.
You must protect your skin from the sun in other ways as well.
Stay out of direct sunlight between 10 am and 4 pm! What??? Never go outside during the best part of the day?
Of course you can go outside, but find the shade.
Wear technical clothing that protects from the sun but feels almost like nothing at all. Collect an awesome wardrobe of broad-brimmed hats.
I seriously have had clients tell me, “I wore that great sunscreen you gave me and I reapplied it just as you said, but lying on the beach in my bikini in Hawaii I still turned brown! What’s up with that?”
But can you actually improve existing damage?
The answer is a qualified yes.
There are many things happening in the skin care world that address individual issues.
But none of them will be of any benefit if you don’t start protecting yourself from the sun.
Jane Neville Dudik, founder and owner of The Acne Treatment Center, is a licensed master esthetician, a certified aesthetic consultant and a certified advanced acne specialist. She also is NCEA certified in advanced esthetics. She has pursued studies with CIDESCO, the Physician’s Care Alliance, the International Dermal Institute, Educated Therapists, and The Aesthetic Practitioners’ Association. She has been privileged to have studied acne with James Fulton, MD, PhD, microneedling with Lance Setterfield, MD, and Advance Skin Analysis and Cosmetic Chemistry with the incomparable Florence Barrett Hill. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree from Duke University and her Master’s Degree from Harvard University.
Jane lives in Vancouver, WA with her husband. They have three grown sons.