From a tanner’s point of view, many do not understand the growing fascination with sunless tanning products. Many are turning to tanning beds because they think they are safer than the sun’s UV rays, because beds primarily use UVA rays. Unfortunately, UVA rays have been found through studies to be a carcinogen, cancer causing, and many tanning salons have been found to exceed safe UV limits. Is tanning bad though?
In the 1920s, the suntan was made popular by Coco Chanel and was seen as a symbol of status, youth and health. What happens when we tan using UV radiation is that when the skin is exposed to either or both UVA and UVB rays, cells called melanocytes produce melanin, the brown-colored pigment present in almost everyone except albinos, which darkens the outer layer of the epidermis. In effect, this darkening of the skin is its natural, if imperfect, defense mechanism against further UV radiation damage.
This is all well and good but the sun’s UV rays will actually damage the DNA of the epidermal sells, which trigger repair enzymes to race to the affected area to repair the damage. After repeated repairs of the various layers of the skin, the DNA present naturally in the skin breaks down and is not repaired successfully. This resulting unrepaired DNA can lead to mutations that increase the risks of getting skin cancers. In addition, if there is repeated unprotected exposure to the sun, not using a sunscreen, it can cause photo-aging such as spots, sagging skin and wrinkles that are associated with sun damage.
It has been recently found, as early as the 1990s, that UVA rays exacerbate UVBs cancer-causing effects and UVA has also been found to be the main wavelength behind photo-aging. One study conducted recently found that UVA rays may even be more carcinogenic than UVB rays because UVA penetrates the skin more deeply and can cause increased genetic damage in keratinocytes (skin cells) where most skin cancers come from. In fact, both UVA and UVB rays have been deemed cancerous by the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health.
So, it seems that the safest alternative is acquiring and using sunless tanning products for that sun-kissed glow. Sunless tanning products do not contain any UVA or UVB or even UVC (which is primarily kept out by the ozone layer) rays. They act using a plant derived sugar compound called DHA. They give the exact same results if done properly than sitting out in the sun or exposing the delicate skin cell to tanning beds. In fact, these sunless products produce tans faster.
There have been many studies that have shown that sunless tanning products are actually safer than utilizing UVB rays from the sun and UVA rays from tanning beds to produce a perfect tan. Our bodies have their own defense mechanism against the burning effects of the sun, called melanocytes that produce the darkening agent melanin, but it is completely imperfect. Repeated exposure of both UVA and UVB rays has been found to be carcinogenic in nature. UVA, in fact, has been found to be the primary cause behind photo-aging.