Safety Tips for Catching Some Rays

You love the look of a tan, but you don’t want the problems that can come with exposure to the sun. What if we told you that you could tan in a relatively safe manner? Here’s how.

Easy does it.

If you decide to lie in the sun, don’t try to get a full-on tan all at once. Gradually work up to the color you want by spending shorter times in the sun. The bonus is that you get natural vitamin D through sunlight. It’s better to err on the side of less sun exposure . . . there’s always tomorrow.

One possibility is to start your tan with short stints in the sun for a week or two, and then use a self tanner (more below) to deepen the color without extra sun exposure. A “short stint” depends on how quickly you burn. If you’re fair skinned, you may only be able to stay in the sun for 20 minutes or so, while the darker-skinned among us may be able to tan for an hour at a time.

Watch your time.

You are more likely to burn if you lie in the sun at midday, so try tanning in the morning or later in the afternoon. You can stay out a little longer then. Continue to wear sunscreen if you may be in the sun longer than the time it takes you to burn.

Try a tan in a bottle.

Self tanners are much easier to apply than they were years ago, and you don’t risk sun exposure when you use them. They work by changing your skin color, and a self tanner lasts about a week. You need to be careful how you apply it for best results, but you can get a nice looking tan from a bottle. Often people who try a self tanner and are inexperienced find that their skin looks streaky or blotchy, so there may be a learning curve for you to get the color you desire.

If you don’t mind applying it daily, tinted moisturizer or a bronzer will give you a sun-kissed look.

No matter how you decide to tan, remember that the tan occurs in the outermost layer of your skin, so anything you can do to hold on to that layer will extend the duration of your tan. Avoiding exfoliation and using moisturizer will help. As doctors, we do want to gently remind you that excessive sun exposure may cause cancer and premature aging.

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