It doesn’t really matter if your skin is creamy white or burnished brown, a bout of sun tanning has some great skin bonuses.
Sunlight helps eradicate blemishes, encourages a warm, healthy skin tone and produces vitamin D in the body. The secret of making the most of the sun and at the same time missing out on the harmful effects lies in the protection you offer your skin each time you take it into the sun.
The woman who lets her skin go unprotected in bright sunlight year after year will find that later in life the skin will be coarser, more prone to lines and more unevenly pigmented. One of the greatest tell-tale areas will be the backs of her hands. They’ll appear freckled and she will have “age spots.”
Read this 24-point check list of tanning do’s and don’ts before you venture into the sun and acquire your summer tan sensibly and safely.
- Start with two five-minute sessions a day. One in the morning between 9 and 11 am and the second in the afternoon between 3 and 6 pm. Never tan between 11 am and 3 pm. These are the danger hours when the sun is at its most powerful.
- Increase tanning sessions by two minutes daily. Day two: seven minute sessions morning and afternoon; day three: nine minute sessions, and so on.
- Whatever your skin type, be strong-willed and limit sunbathing to a 15 minute maximum twice a day. Any more than this and those premature ineradicable wrinkles appear.
- Always use a sunscreen suntanning product to protect you from the sun. Choose the one specially formulated for your skin type: dry, sensitive, oily, easy-tanning, easy-burning or whatever. All contain a sunscreen to prevent toughening, wrinkles, dried out and prematurely aged skin.
- Ultra violet rays penetrate water: the sea, the swimming pool, the river. They also come through under beach umbrellas, although staying out of direct sunlight can filter the sun’s force and produce a beautiful and non harmful tan. One jet setter we know spends her summers under a beach umbrella. It takes longer, but her sunshade tan is worth it.
- Promote tanning with vitamins. The B group all help production of the body pigment melanin. Taking B complex vitamins in summer helps replace those the body is using to produce pigment.
- Summer sun makes skin extra sensitive to caffeine and alcohol. Best thirst quencher is water with ice and a squeeze of lemon – it’s good for you too.
- Always re-apply tanning preparation after swimming. Don’t let salt water dry on your body in the sun. Droplets cause reflected burning and salt dries out skin. Towel dry, apply sunscreen oil or lotion, then sun yourself.
- The key word for summer is moisturize. Use a tanning lotion rather than a sun oil for dry areas: face, elbows, knees, arms. Use oil for legs, back, body. Smooth in body lotion night and morning. Use a moisturizer on face and throat three times a day. Wear a moisturized foundation.
- Get into tanning lotions before your own tan starts and keep using them. They are good sun lotions as well as instant tanners, and keep you looking golden while you tan slowly and sensibly.
- NEVER expose face and throat to direct sunlight. It’s aging and harmful. Always use a sunscreen or sunblock cream.
- Makeup gels are gentler for face and throat color than harsh suntans. They always appear brown and beautiful with clever gel makeup, or instant tanners.
- Perfume and tanning don’t mix so don’t wear your normal toilet water or perfume concentrate. The alcohol in them parches sun-dried skin. More importantly some scents such as oil of bergamot can cause photosensitivity. Blotching or pigment marks can also occur when some of these compounds react to the strong sunshine.
- Squinting in harsh sunlight and sunburn can age and crinkle delicate skin around the eyes. Wear a sunblock cream after making sure it won’t irritate, then an eye oil and a cream shadow on lids for extra protection.
- Wear sunglasses. Unprotected eyes can lose 50 percent of night vision after a day’s exposure to harsh sunshine. For the beach you need glasses that filter out all but 15 to 25 percent of the light. Outdoors, only 30 percent of light should reach you. A good lens will block out ultraviolet rays along with the light. Ground-glass lenses are best; check them before you buy the sunglasses. Turn them so that an overhead light reflects inside, then move the glass slowly right to left so the reflection travels across the lens. A wobble, a wave or a wiggle will affect your eyesight badly.
- Cloudy days or hazy? Use your sun protective lotions. Because the sun is behind clouds doesn’t mean ultraviolet rays aren’t burning you. Clouds are water vapor: on a totally cloudy day about 50 percent radiation is getting through. On a hazy day it’s about 100 percent.
- Cover hair with a hat or scarf when sunbathing. Harsh burning rays dry hair out, cause brittleness and split ends.
- Condition hair all summer. One of Australia’s top hairdressers, has a neat trick: “Apply conditioner to damp hair before shampooing. Rinse hair well in warm water, apply conditioner and massage well in, then shampoo normally. It helps a lot.” Another idea is monthly steam treatments. Massage in conditioner, wrap a hot towel around i your head, leave for 15 minutes re-wetting and heating towel every seven minutes.
- Body cells and tolerance for sun change as you grow older. Because at 15 you didn’t burn doesn’t mean that at 45 you won’t. You need extra protection.
- Salt tablets. The British are notorious for going to the Mediterranean and wallowing in salt tablets. It’s quite a sensible idea. If you head for the sun after months in a cold climate, your body will dehydrate with the change in temperature. Salt tablets help prevent dizziness and cramps caused by salt loss.
- Even with protection there may be sun signs (not tans) for which you should watch. Large brown spots can indicate places where skin cancers will develop. Check these pigment patches with a dermatologist or your local doctor. Tiny red spots on fair-skinned people are often burst capillaries caused by over exposure. A dermatologist can remove them. With careful tanning, there’s no need for them.
- Peeling is usually caused by burning, not to blister stage, but burning nonetheless. Slow tanning, the 15 minute morning and afternoon routine, and lots of moisturizing will prevent it.
- At the first sign of redness cover up. It’s your skin’s message to you, you are beginning to burn. It means cover up with a shirt or skirt or long sleeves for whichever part is reddening. Don’t wait until the skin is tender or bright red.
- Makeup is your sunbathing friend. Use it sparingly, too much under harsh sun looks awful, but use it well. Lipstick protects lips from drying and chafing. Moisturized foundations with built-in sunscreens protect face and throat. Eye shadow protects eyes.
Normally a good, even tan will develop in two weeks. Dark skinned bodies that are untanned need only medium protection when they begin to tan. As the tan develops switch to a low protection cream.
Any suntan preparation should be rubbed into the skin about 20 minutes before you go out in the sun. You need to repeat the application about every three hours and immediately after swimming. This does not apply if you are using a water-resistant lotion.