Myths about having a tan

Each year many people in Australia actively work at developing a tan.  Others just seem to become tanned as part of their day to day lives.  Whereas some people in Australia believe that having a tan with give them all the protection they need.  Here are some myths about tans, and also the truth.

Tanning is a sign I am getting my vitamin D

I think most of us are aware that vitamin D is important for health, and it is true that UV radiation does stimulate synthesis of vitamin D.  However,  most Australians receive enough vitamin D while doing normal daily activities, and in fact having a tan is a sign that your skin’s DNA is irreversibly damaged.

When you are exposed to UV you only make vitamin D for a short amount of time and staying exposed for longer periods of time doesn’t increase vitamin D levels further.  Trying to get a tan to build up you vitamin D is more likely to be doing you much more harm than good.

Building up a tan protects me from the sun

This is an interesting one because what you are actually saying is that ‘I need to damage my skin to protect my skin’.  It just makes no sense.

And the science doesn’t support this theory either.  Laboratory tests have shown that having a tan is only equivalent to a sunscreen with an SPF of 3, only the very minimal protection.  So the idea of having a tan to protect you from the sun is very definitely a myth.

A tan is healthy

In case the above two points have not explained it, a tan is not healthy but in fact your skin being damaged.  A tan might disguise some skin imperfections but as soon as it fades the imperfections appear again.  The solution is not permanent.  However, what is permanent well after the tan fades, is the damage that has been done to the lower levels of your skin; damage that can over time become skin cancer.

Only getting burnt damages your skin

Sun burn makes it clear that you have damaged your skin.  It hurts, is red and often leads to peeling.  But just because you don’t have these symptoms when you tan doesn’t mean that you not doing damage to your skin.  Tanning and burning both result in damage to your skin that can lead to skin cancer.  Each time you are overexposed to UV from the sun your risk of developing skin cancer is increased.

Now that you know the truth about a tan, I guess the question is do you think skin cancer a price worth paying for a tan.  It is never too late to make changes to reduce your risk of skin cancer, so next time you are outside, check the UV level, and if it is 3 or above, make sure you slip, slop, slap, seek and slide.

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