Spring is finally around the corner, and for many young women, that means memorable events like prom (even if they may be socially distant or virtual this year) It may be tempting to achieve a bronzed, “sun-kissed” look for occasions like these, and studies show women are more likely to use indoor tanning devices than men. We’ve known for a while however, that any young women considering indoor tanning should think twice.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a proven human carcinogen, and there has been plenty of research linking melanoma incidence in young women to tanning bed habits. One study shows just how closely the two are connected: according to researchers, 97% of women diagnosed with melanoma before age 30 have engaged in indoor tanning. Additionally, a woman doesn’t even need to use tanning beds frequently for them to pose a threat to her health. Just one indoor tanning session before the age of 35 increases a person’s risk of melanoma by 75 percent.
“There is no such thing as a healthy UV tan. Whether you’re laying out on the beach or in a tanning bed, the damage your skin sustains can lead to skin aging and potentially deadly skin cancer,” says Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “It’s so important that young women avoid UV tanning beds and opt for a sun safe beauty routine.”
Tanning doesn’t only increase your risk of developing a melanoma— it increases your risk of developing other types of skin cancer as well. A single session causes a 67 percent increased risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and a 29 percent increased risk of developing basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, but BCC and SCC are the two most common forms of cancer.
If an increased risk of skin cancer isn’t enough of a reason to steer clear, indoor tanning also contributes to premature skin aging. That means wrinkles, leathery skin, sagging, and age spots. Still can’t resist that bronzed look? Opt for sunless self-tanners or spray tans. These are available in many forms, including lotions, sprays, and creams.
The Skin Cancer Foundation advocates that no tan is a safe tan, and that regardless of whether women decide to go with their own glow or use sunless tanning methods, they avoid UV tanning.
Tips for Properly Applying Sunless Tanner:
Prep your skin. Exfoliate skin with a scrub or loofah and follow up with a moisturizer. This ensures that the sunless tanner will be absorbed evenly.
Follow the package directions closely. For example, wait at least 12 hours after shaving to apply (to avoid dark spots in hair follicles) and don’t use on skin with active eczema.
Be patient. Self-tanners can take 30-60 minutes to produce visible color on the skin, and this color typically lasts about five days.
Repeat as necessary. Generally, the product should be reapplied daily for two to three days, until the desired shade is achieved. Then, reapply about three times a week to maintain the shade.
Go to a pro. Professional spray tans are an option for those who want to safely achieve a bronzed look in a hurry. Many salons provide automated application of high concentration, no-rub, aerosolized non-UV tanning products, while others provide a customized airbrush tan. When receiving a professional spray tan, wear protective gear for the mouth, eyes and nose to prevent ingestion or inhalation.
Don’t rely on sunless tanners for sun protection. Even if your self-tanner contains sunscreen, reapply a separate broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every two hours when outdoors. Sunscreen alone isn’t enough, however. The Skin Cancer Foundation has always recommended that everyone take a comprehensive sun protection approach that includes seeking shade and covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, in addition to daily sunscreen use.
For more information visit SkinCancer.org.