02 Jun Tanning: The Right Way to Enjoy the Sun
When it comes to tanning and the sun, authorities have quite frankly frightened us. However, on second thought, are they simply trying to get us to spend more money on chemical and toxic sunscreens and self-tanning products? There is of course the fight against the epidemic of skin cancer, but while it is extremely important to avoid sunburns, the sun also holds great virtues for our general health. The best one can do is to enjoy the weather outside following the safety advice given below. As long as you keep your common sense, you can enjoy the benefits the sun has on your skin, mood and your overall well being.
The only real advice to give about the sun is simply to follow common sense and adapt gradually. It’s just like running – if for forty years you have not left your couch then do not start by running a marathon! Our natural way of life is to live outdoors, and therefore to be exposed to the sun. According to the fluctuations of the seasons, our skin is able to adapt, and when we run out of the sun, it absorbs UVB (Ultraviolet B). When UVB rays strike the surface of your skin, it turns a cholesterol derivative valuable in vitamin D3. Having optimal stores of vitamin D offers countless benefits and most importantly it causes a significant decrease in the risk of cancer, including that of skin cancer. Conversely, if sun exposure is strong, our skin turns brown in order to limit the entry of UVB. So, if you have stayed indoors for weeks then you have to gradually adapt to the sun. The brutal and excessive sunlight brings no health benefit as it causes sunburn – an inflammatory reaction of the skin to excessive ultraviolet radiation.
If you have not been exposed to the sun, do so by following sessions of 10 to 20 minutes, depending on your location and the sunshine (clouds or not). If you have fair skin, your goal should be that your skin turns a light pink colour. You should stop just before your skin becomes warm or hot to touch and when you have a feeling of discomfort when your skin touches or rubs on your clothes. The difficulty, of course, is that these symptoms are not immediately visible. They appear in the hours after sun exposure and when the pain becomes even greater following 24 hours. This is why the best, initially, is to simply measure the time you expose yourself to the sun. If you take a sunbath on a clear day, between the hours of 11am to 4pm, you should tan only 10 minutes on your belly and then another 10 minutes on the back. Your goal is to avoid burns, blisters and peeling skin. Sunburns are classified in three degrees: burns of first, second and third degree. First-degree burns can be treated at home. Third-degree burns cause blisters and sores that are prone to infection, fevers and chills and must be consulted with a doctor immediately.
A beautiful tan is a sign of a good vitamin D levels
When your skin starts to turn pink in the sun, you reach a point of balance when your body cannot produce more vitamin D. Each day, you manufacture up to 20,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D, and have a biological feedback control system that prevents reaching the overdose. And so by exposing yourself to the sun everyday, you can gradually increase your exposure time.
A natural and moderate tan is a visible sign that your vitamin D is optimal. Those who have very dark skin may ultimately spend hours in the sun without fear of burning. But for others, the maximum exposure time, after being well accustomed, is about an hour, after which you must protect yourself by staying in the shade. Also note that as the facial skin is more sensitive, it is important to wear a hat in order to avoid damage and limit the risk of sunstroke.
UVA vs. UVB
The sun’s ultraviolet rays reach us in two main forms.
Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays are regarded as bad for our health as they penetrate deep into the layers of our skin and cause DNA mutations and formations of aggressive free radicals. Sunscreens block UVB and pass good UVA cancer factors, unless they contain a specific anti-UVA ingredient. Therefore, sunscreens can prevent burns without protecting you from cancer. Moreover, they may still have UVA benefits for our health, which have not yet been identified by the science.
Ultraviolet B (UVB) are good rays that help our skin to produce vitamin D. Nevertheless, they can also give a tan and sunburn faster than UVA. Sunlight is especially high in UVB in the middle of the day, that is to say precisely when the experts tell you not to expose yourself! However, one in the other, the benefits of a reasonable UVB exposure outweigh the potential harm of UVA. In other words, the anti-cancer effects of vitamin D produced under the effect of sun exceed the pro-cancer effects of UVA.
Plants & Sun
You can also increase your comfort and beautify your skin with natural products. Before exposing your skin to the sun, be sure to eat fresh vegetables and small colourful fruit. The more antioxidants you consume, the more quickly your skin will be able to adapt to the sun. You can reduce the risk of sunburn by eating vegetables and fruits rich in carotenoids, orange red pigments you can find in apricots, carrots, as well as green vegetables. Vitamin C also helps in fighting free radicals and inflammation caused by the sun’s rays whilst astaxanthin is another powerful pigment that forms an interior ‘sunscreen’, which will also help you to tan evenly. Before, during and after exposure, regularly drink water. Your skin needs to be hydrated and, when exposed to the sun, it dries without you even noticing and becomes much more sensitive. In case of burns, apply aloe vera gel on your skin in order to minimize damage and speed-up healing. Aloe vera is a natural protective skin care and in many regions, such as the Mediterranean coast, you find aloe veras that grow in the wild. Using a knife, you can cut off a tip of a leaf, open it in two and rub the gel onto your skin – a natural pharmacy relief.