Ahhh, the perfect suntan. That healthy-looking glow, that radiant, bronzed look . . .
. . . how on earth do people make that happen? And more importantly, how do they do it without damaging their skin, aging too fast, and putting themselves at risk of skin cancer?
The good news is if you’re hoping to find that sun-kissed glow in the last few days of summer, it is possible to get a little color and still maintain that soft, youthful complexion. Even better news: while you do want to avoid over-exposing yourself to UV rays, a little extra sun does deliver certain health benefits. A healthy dose of sunshine gives you a serotonin boost to relieve anxiety and produces vitamin D, which is actually good for your skin.
All this to say, while you don’t want to get too reckless in your quest to chase down the perfect summer glow, there actually is a way to get your melanin boost and take care of your body at the same time. You just need to be deliberate in your sunbathing and skincare methods.
1: Skip the Tanning Bed
If you want a tan, get it the natural way with good, old fashioned sunshine.
The problem with tanning beds is that they not only expose you to some pretty extreme UV rays, but they also radiate the wrong type of UV. We mentioned earlier that sunlight can actually be good for you because it provides a boost of vitamin D. Well, that boost is stimulated by UVB rays. Sunbeds radiate little to no UVB. It’s all UVA—the photoaging rays that make your skin look rough, raggedy, and old. All damage, no benefits.
2: Wear Sunscreen . . . Seriously
The key to a healthy glow is to take your time and find a safe balance of sun exposure and sun protection. This means you don’t want to ditch the SPF just because you’re tanning. If you walk into the sun with virtually no protection, you’re likely to burn and you’re going to damage your skin. Where a carefully selected sunscreen, on the other hand, and you achieve a gentle, gradual glow.
When you select your SPF, take your natural complexion into account. If you have darker skin, an SPF 15 works great. If you’re fair-skinned, resist the temptation to go low just to speed up the tanning process. An SPF 30 is a smart compromise.
Also be sure you look for the phrase “broad spectrum” on the label. This term means the sunscreen protects you from both UVA rays and UVB rays.
3: Don’t Reach for the Tanning Oils
Hopefully, we’ve convinced you of the importance of using sunscreen during the tanning process, because this warning piggy-backs off of that one.
To put it in the most direct terms: tanning oils basically just bake your skin. They do virtually nothing to nourish or protect you. Their function is to speed up the tanning process; they are not formulated to prevent skin damage.
Tan-accelerating creams aren’t worth your investment, either. There is no topical product that will get your skin to produce more melanin. So, once again, leave the artificial options on the shelf and let the sunlight do its thing.
4: Time Your Sunbathing Carefully
To bronze instead of burn, get to know both the sun and yourself a little better.
The sun’s rays are more direct and intense:
- In the summer
- Between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
You can still catch some rays under those conditions, but you do need to select the higher SPF, apply sunscreen more liberally, and take a few breaks in the shade.
Also, keep an eye on what happens to your skin when you’re in the sun. The goal, of course, is to avoid sunburn and skin damage altogether, but keep your eyes open so that—if it happens—you understand why it happened. Everybody reaches a melanin plateau, so to speak. That is to say, there is a point at which your skin isn’t going to get any tanner and prolonged sun exposure is going to accomplish nothing other than sun damage. The limit for most people is somewhere in the range of two to three hours. If you’re especially light-skinned, assume it’s even less than that.
5: Nurture Your Skin with Quality Skincare Products
Safe sun tanning isn’t only about what you do in the sun; it’s also about how you take care of your skin after a day by the pool.
Choose all-natural cleansers formulated to moisturize and heal. Some great ingredients to look for:
- Plant-based oils such as coconut oil that hydrates and reduces inflammation and olive oil, which contains vitamin E to heal skin damage.
- Glycerin to draw water up from the deeper layers of your skin for that soft and supple feel.
- Lavender water to soothe redness.
Definitely avoid chemicals and synthetic fragrances which will only dry out your skin and cause irritation.
Ultimately, the secret to a safe and healthy tan is to pamper your skin. Give it some sunlight, but don’t blast it with harsh UV rays, and follow a skincare routine to keep your epidermis looking young and bright. We recommend natural, organic products containing plant-based oils, like Le Lores’ French Olive & Coconut Oil Body Wash.
Like all things in life, patience and care yield the best results.