The long-term risks of indoor tanning are well known. But they don’t stop many young people, who are more concerned about looking good in the present. Luckily, there are ways to improve the look of your skin without tanning.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), more than one million people tan in tanning salons on any given day. And about 70 percent are young Caucasian women, ages 16 to 29 years old.
And regularly lying under UV lamps can have serious consequences, especially for young people. In the past 40 years, the incidence of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, has risen 800 percent among women ages 18 to 39, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. People who begin tanning before the age of 35 also have a 59 percent higher risk of melanoma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In fact, using a tanning bed just once can increase your risk of melanoma by 20 percent, with a higher risk of cancer each time you use it, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Indoor tanning and prolonged sun exposure can also cause other forms of skin cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. It can also cause premature skin aging, suppression of the immune system, and eye damage, such as cataracts and ocular melanoma, according to the AAD. Then there are extreme sunburns—tanning beds and lamps cause about 3,000 hospital emergency room visits each year, according to the FDA and the AAD.
“Indoor tanning is the most aging thing you can do to your skin,” said Nia Terezakis, M.D., AAD Fellow and a private practice dermatologist in New Orleans. “You can never remove that damage—it damages collagen and the DNA of your epidermis, and it’s continuous for the rest of your life.”
The Skin Cancer Foundation recently launched a Go With Your Own Glow campaign, which encourages women to feel comfortable in their own skin and to enhance their natural glow by following a proper skincare regimen.
Get your healthy glow with these tips from the Skin Cancer Foundation and the CDC:
Doris Day, M.D., of the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Step by Step Guide to Going with Your Own Glow, recommends first finding your natural skin tone by looking at places on your body that have not been exposed to the sun. This will help you determine how to bring out your most radiant skin tone on your face and other parts of your body. It can also help you determine your Fitzpatrick Skin Type classification, which can reveal your skin cancer risks.
Once you’ve found your natural skin tone, stick to a morning cleansing routine. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a gentle cleanser (it doesn’t have to create a lather or foam to work), followed by an optional vitamin C serum. Terezakis recommends keeping things simple with a bar of soap as a cleaner.
The CDC recommends wearing a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher that protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. It’s also important to wear sunscreen year-round, since harmful rays can reach you even when it doesn’t appear warm or sunny outside, according to the CDC.
A good evening cleansing routine is just as important as your morning cleansing routine when trying to achieve your most radiant skin tone. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends washing your face with a gentle cleanser and then exfoliating afterwards. As long as your skin isn’t too sensitive, follow with a topical retinoid cream to help fight signs of aging. Lastly, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a moisturizer cream containing retinoids only at night since these skin creams can make skin more sensitive to UV rays.
You can also avoid premature aging and reduce your risk of skin cancer by staying in the shade during midday hours—between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.—when UV rays are strongest. General guidelines set forth by the CDC also include protecting your face with a wide brim hat, wearing sunglasses that protect against UVA and UVB rays, and wearing clothes that cover your arms and legs. Terezakis said it’s especially important to cover your chest and back, since these are the parts of the body that are often over-exposed to UV rays and the most common places for melanoma to form.
If you find yourself unable to resist the urge to give into the traditional summer bronze trend, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a light pink blush for pale skin tones, or a deeper blush or bronzer if you have a darker skin tone, to brighten your complexion and give yourself a radiant glow.
You can also try a sunless self-tanner. The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests waiting at least 12 hours after shaving to apply a self-tanner and to wear sunscreen each time you go out in the sun, even if sunscreen is already included in the product.