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It’s that time of year again when we feel that brown is beautiful. But we must also remember the day we got so burnt we decided we’d be more careful next year. Recently the media was warning us to be careful, as the ozone is the biggest it has ever been – so getting burnt can be achieved even if we are careful. The sun is a unique source of natural goodness; indispensible for the health, well-being and radiance of the skin, but it is also a major cause of skin ageing. If you do want a tan, remember the importance of protection to ensure this.
To protect the skin, choose the protection according to three criteria – skin sensitivity to the sun, the geographical location of where you will be (e.g. altitude) and the intensity of the UV rays.
Always protect children’s fine and delicate skin, as melanin (the dark pigmentation responsible for tanning) is not yet fully developed. Also, after the age of 40 or 50, the number of active melanocytes diminishes progressively – yet another reason to choose high protection for initial exposure, to preserve the properties and qualities of your skin.
Getting that tan
Tanning is the skin’s natural way of adapting to sun exposure. A tan is activated within 72 hours and becomes effective only after several days of moderate and regular exposure (always with the right protection). Protection of the skin in these first days should be automatic for you – that is a top priority if you are to develop a glowing, even and lasting tan.
- Your location, altitude and the time of day should be considered. UVB rays are responsible for sunburn, and their strength increases by 4% every 400m gained in altitude. At an altitude of 2000m, UVB rays are 20% more active than at sea level. So choose high protection in the mountains. During sun exposure, the skin absorbs the rays coming from the atmosphere, and also those reflected by the earth. This reflection is 85% on snow, 25% on sand, 5% on water and 3% on grass. This helps explain why, even if you are under a parasol, you risk sunburn if protection has not been applied.
- If you are very tired your skin will be more vulnerable. On these occasions, use high protection.
- Make a smooth transition form your usual ultra-busy work schedule to lying on the beach in the sun. Take a day or two to adjust to your vacation without getting burnt.
- For the first few days, especially if you haven’t been in the sun for a long time, use a high SPF. The skin remembers areas which have been sunburned, so attend especially to these, a high SPF will not prevent you from getting a tan but will promote a more beautiful tan and keep you from burning.
- Certain medications, such as the contraceptive pill, sleep aids and acne treatments can make skin more sensitive.
- Don’t spend hours out in the sun thinking you are tanning faster. Beyond 45 minutes of exposure, that is 20 minutes of intense sunlight, your skin becomes saturated. Remember, it takes at least 48 hours for a tan to appear, no matter how long you spend in the sun.
- We all have a maximum tanning capacity, so the best way to intensify your tan is to apply a self-tanner.
Steps to follow
- START several weeks before summer has arrived if you want a perfect tan for summer.
- Plan regular trips to beaches and swimming centres or open picnic grounds where exposure to the sun is inevitable.
- Spend five minutes at first being exposed to morning rays.
- Increase this by one to two minutes a day. This way you will acquire an even protective tan that will soon cover all exposed parts. Avoid over-exposure if you don’t have this protective tan. Be careful on the first few days.
Tips to remember
- ALWAYS protect the skin effectively during initial exposure to the sun. Once a golden colour is achieved, you can perhaps move on to a product with a lower sun factor.
- Expose yourself gradually to the sun, especially if you have fair skin.
- Choose the protective factor according to the sensitivity of your skin.
- Concentrate on sun-sensitive areas such as the face, neck bust and hands where the skin is more prone to wrinkles. Don’t forget sun-control cream for the face and bust.