Britain has suffered from one of the most cloudy, wet and cold summers in a long time. If you are lucky enough to have been on holiday recently, then this might not bother you so much, but for those who have been in the UK over the summer, chances are you’ve been left feeling a little gloomy.
Despite being bombarded with warnings about skin cancer and sun damage, sunlight and the vitamin D that it provides is actually very good for us physically and mentally. Dangers of melanomas and skin cancer have made us overly paranoid about something that is not only enjoyable, but a natural and free way of revitalising both body and mind. More recently, it has even been suggested that sunbeds and tanning booths can be used healthily. Here are the reasons why having a light tan isn’t necessarily dangerous, but why you should still take care when exposing your skin to UV rays.
Sunbathing is the most natural way to absorb vitamin D. Tanning occurs when the skin is exposed gradually, but too much sudden exposure leads to burning which is painful and bad for the skin. Safe sunbathing has health benefits such as building a robust immune system, and strong bones. Exposure to the sun in moderation can be helpful for a number of complaints, from cancer to depression to acne. Spending time in the sun is also the best way to absorb vitamin D. The important thing to remember is not to spend too long in the sun and to wear some sun protection. Stay hydrated, but soak up the rays and by all means allow yourself to tan.
Sunscreen is great for hot days and preventing sunburn, but bad for vitamin D absorption if used unnecessarily. Using a face cream with SPF in it can help protect your face from daily rays, which can have an ageing effect, but it is only necessary if you are lucky enough to get a lot of daily sunshine. During peak times, for example the midday Mediterranean sun, it is better to cover up or stay in the shade rather than use unnecessary skin products to protect yourself against the sun.
Sunbeds mimic the spectrum of light from sun and are now better regulated. Moderate use of sunbeds can provide health benefits. A five to ten minute session every six weeks in winter can be good to top up your vitamin D, which isn’t well absorbed in food. For those living in wintry areas with limited natural sunlight, vitamin D deficiencies can lead to fatigue, weakened immune systems, and depression. In addition to helping the body generate vitamin D, sunbeds are also known to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (or seasonal depression), psoriasis, and eczema. If using a sunbed for the first time, don’t go on for more than six minutes in your first session, even if you naturally have quite dark skin. We would stress that using sunbeds for vanity purposes is a bad idea. If you want to achieve a deep tan, then the safest way to achieve it is to fake it on top of a natural base tan.
Fake tans and spray tans are purely cosmetic and provide no health benefits. The good news is that the only risk they carry is that you can end up with a streaky or unnatural looking tan. However, many upmarket salons offer excellent spray tanning services, such as “3-D” tans, which use different shades to create an illusion – you can have your stomach made to appear flatter, while your cleavage looks enhanced.
Melonatan injections – STEER CLEAR! This synthetic hormone is unlicensed and illegal. As if that’s not bad enough, you have to mix up the powder at home and inject it yourself! Nasty.
Remember, while tanning can be very good for you, it is essential to be safe in the sun. Never let yourself burn, stay hydrated, protect your eyes from bright sunlight, and always moisturise before and after periods in the hot sun – coconut oil is great for keeping skin supple and soft. If you are feeling a bit gloomy after a lack of summer sun, perhaps think about trying out a sunbed session as a pick-me-up? For those lucky enough to be anticipating a late season holiday – go ahead and lap up the rays, but don’t burn or spend prolonged periods in the midday sun.