There’s No Such Thing As A Healthy Tan

That’s a common Public Service Announcement tag line here.  I’m sure the people in my life are sick to death of hearing me talk about tanning and skin protection, but it’s important.  Skin cancer is the most preventable form of cancer.

Let me tell you about my English friend’s girlfriend.  They spent four months traveling the world, stopping off in my little corner of the planet for a few days.  I’d never met the girl before.  Lets call her Ivy.  She’s a London hedge fund lawyer and I’m an American provincial.  I picked my friend and Ivy up at the train station, wearing my hemp sun-jacket on a suffocating hot day.  She was so brown I was actually startled, but put it down to her being English.   (A local game: “Spot the Englishman” on the beach.  You look for someone burnt to a crisp, ask them where they’re from and they’ll be English 9 times out of 10.)

(Renée Perle, Jaques Henri Lartigue)

After several days of watching me slather on sunscreen and put on my hat, jacket and sunglasses every time we went out, I think she snapped.   Especially since everyone else slathered on the sunscreen like it was a religious rite and at least wore a hat.   She had made herself the odd man out and probably thought we were all crazy.

We were sitting around my in-laws’ pool after dinner, drinking wine and talking in the velvety tropical night.  She took a big gulp of wine, set her wineglass on the table and aprubtly declared “I think you’re all just being lazy.”

I looked around the table and back to her.  We three (her boyfriend, my husband and I) glowed white in the moonlight; I could only make out her outline and the whites of her eyes.

“Pardon?” her boyfriend asked.  I wondered if this was a common tiff between them.

“Lazy. All of you.  If you’d just try a little harder, you could all have a nice dark tan like me.”  I thought she was trying to be funny, but her words had a sharp edge.

(Come in to Tropic Tans R Us today, and we’ll throw in a free wind-machine and posing lessons with your tan!)

“I-uhm… I like my skin this way.  I get hives if I’m in the sun too much, and anyway the sun here will give you cancer before you’re 30.”

“That’s not true!  It’s good to have a tan, so gorgeous and you just waste all this lovely sunshine covering up.  You don’t have to burn, just tan a little at a time then you won’t burn and won’t get cancer.  It takes so much work to have a tan, you’re just being lazy.”

Her boyfriend tried again.  “Ivy, that’s not true.  Tanning is skin damage, period.”

“No it isn’t!  It’s healthy and beautiful!  You people just don’t know.”   She retreated into her wine glass and went to bed early.  I didn’t say anything to her, I could see she wouldn’t listen to me and I wasn’t about to change my habits, either.   Her words rankled me slightly.   How could she witness the great lengths I go to for sun protection and call me lazy?  Why is artificially darkening your skin thought to be beautiful, anyway?

Let’s go back to Coco Chanel.

In the 20’s, Chanel launched tanning as a 20th century beauty practice, almost single-handedly.  Up to that time, a tan implied you had to work out in the sun, probably hard manual labor.  Upper class citizens (and aspirants) kept their skin carefully shielded from the sun, to avoid an appearance of vulgarity.  Chanel changed that, apparently with one delicious tan:

“The popularity of tanning can be traced to a single moment in 1923. After cruising from Paris to Cannes, designer Coco Chanel stepped off the Duke of Wellington’s yacht with a startling suntan. Chanel had apparently gotten too much sun by accident, but the press and fashion world assumed the immensely influential Frenchwoman was making a fashion statement. ‘I think she may have invented sunbathing,’ Prince Jean-Louis de Faucigny-Lucigne said. ‘At that time, she invented everything.’ Soon, daring women in Europe and America were baring their skin to the sun.”

This is quoted from a dubious website, but I’ve run across the story in several of Chanel’s biographies.

Joan Blondelle, in Beach Pajamas

Tanning began to have other implications- being “hep” and the luxury of time for sunbathing.  A tan stood for youth and health, since young people first adopted tanning, probably through activities like swimming and yachting.  The change didn’t happen over night, but became firmly entrenched in the 40’s and 50’s.

(Magda from There’s Something About Mary)

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, tanning still carries a connotation of health and vitality.  I suggest looking out for people who have tanned every day of their lives for 60 years, compared to those of the same age who have not done much sun-worshipping.  The difference is striking, and that’s just the physical effects of sun damage.

What about spray-tans?  You can’t get cancer from a spray tan….


(Anne Hathaway in Bride Wars)

We’ve all seen this before- that dreaded shade Oompa-Loompa Orange.  I’m sorry, there’s nothing glamorous about this level of artifice.   And what about Orange Palm Syndrome from applying bottled bronzer?  Why bother?  Why can’t we just allow ourselves to be the color we’re meant to be?  Why is it so important to hold on to this destructive fashion practice?  It seems so excessive to me.  Perhaps one day tanned skin (not to be confused with naturally tan-colored skin) will carry the same stigma as a smoker’s cough.   

What do you think?  Is tanning hot and sexy, or a destructive, anachronistic habit?  Do you think pale skin is beautiful, or do you strive for golden brown perfection no matter the cost?  If you are a dedicated tanner, I’m curious to know why?  This could be framed as a debate between natural (pale skin) vs. contrived (tanned skin) beauty.  Do you think so?

Will tanned skin go the way of lead face cream, arsenic makeup and smoking?


  1. I don't go crazy covering up and sometimes I forget sunscreen but overall I try to not get burned or even too much sun. I think pale skin is fine. I hear a lot of people talking about getting tanning cream because "my legs are so white". I say Too bad. Your skin is white! That's why your legs are white. Why are white legs bad? Just be who you are. I have the same reaction to a tanned person as I do to smokers! Startled!I cant believe she called you all lazy though! LOL! That doesn't even make any sense!

    • I know I’m a year late in replying, but…
      My own problem with white legs (which I do not solve by buying products, mind you – I do not really solve it in any way) is that often they’re much whiter than my arms, because I often wear long skirts or trousers with short sleeves.
      Just a little note.

  2. Heh. I like the way you write, always a grin. Yeah, I didn't think it made any sense either. We'd all had a little to drink, she maybe had a little too much, and I think she was trying to be funny or something except it came out sulky and angry.

  3. The lazy comment is very funny, if a little head-scratching. But, come to think of, if I were ever going to become tan, it WOULD be a gargantuan effort on my part.People always comment on how pale my family and I are. Yes, it's true, we're pale; thanks for saying so. I'm older than I used to be (believe it or not) and don't care what people think. However, I'm skeptical about the chemicals in sunscreen. We're a minute walk from the beach, so definitely spend a lot of time in the sun. I plan our beach trips to when the shade will be the biggest; put hats and sleeves on the kids; and limit the time in the sun. In this climate, that means we can (usually) get by without sunscreen.

  4. I am paler than you and I avoid the sun like the plague. Not that easy in Texas though you have educated me how it is even harder down there. I am routinely complimented on my youthful skin (I am 39). I do have to keep my windows uncovered because my mood is sensitive to lack of light. I suppose if I lived somewhere else I would have Seasonal Affective Disorder. My family sits around at family reunions and trade skin cancer treatment stories. Many of the males in my family do manual labor in the sun and have been over-exposed as part of their job. I feel bad for them but men tend to be less vain or health conscious. Ivy was ignorant and self-conscious of her own oddity in your group. She attacked as a self defense mechanism. I have noticed that Brits are eager to sun-worship when given the chance. I guess it is because their skies are so gloomy that skin cancer is not an issue so they are unaware of the problems and just enjoy the novelty.

  5. Remembering the ridiculous contorsions I held as a teen trying to tan my armpits I agree–tanning is hard work. And it is also boring and stupid. But, I live in the far North and we have a high incidence of vitamin D deficiency related diseases. I must admit to feeling sun-starved by the time it is finally possible to bare some skin. I know I could probably get by with supplements but I think a little natural sun is good for me. Do you suppose the English get so sun-starved it makes them a little kooky about tanning ?I did work for several years as an archaeologist–out all day every day–and then I was religious about sunscreen, hats and long sleeves.

  6. I hate tanning! I did a couple session before my wedding because I was glow in the dark white and my mother in law has a tanning bed in her house (read free tanning!). I hated it though. All I kept thinking was skin cancer! One of my aunts has had skin cancer twice already so it freaks me out a bit. Plus I smelt funny afterwords and now I smell that smell anytime I'm out in the sun too much.Tanning take effort, but so does not getting tan. That girl was a serious jerk to you.

  7. My head understands tanning is bad, and I never tan my face (brings out my freckles.) that being said, I like the look of my legs being darker, possibly because I associate the blue-white colour they have in the winter with too many socks, long-johns, and my skin being super-dry and flaky. Hmm, that was yummy… Anyway, it's been ages since I went out of my way to tan, but I do usually end up rather browner (and freckled) by the end of the summer than I start out. Mostly through laziness… I worry more about the blondes in my family than myself, though… They crisp as soon as look at the sun. Good for you for being so rigorous in your sun protection… White people are not well-adapted to places like Australia ;)

  8. Having seen my father covered in a network of scars due to the removal of numerous skin cancers, and 3 melanoma; there is nothing attractive about a tan. Oddly though, even with sunscreen, hat and sensible clothes, I still have a tan, including the oh-so-attractive tan lines. My question is why, even with sun protection, do I still tan?

  9. Nice article, Mrs C, very pithily put. And you're exactly right, it's worse here because of the thinner ozone. Joy, I'm pretty skeptical of sunscreen, too, which is why I opt to cover up. I mostly use sunscreen on my neck and the back of my hands. Ever since my husband started teaching me about nanotechnology….Dawn S- I think you're right about the Brits and about Ivy. It's ok, I think it was a sort of proxy conversation anyway, but it's stuck with me. When I lived in Texas I never bothered much about sun protection, just on big days out to the lake or whatever. It's just I have an almost allergic reaction to the sun here.Sigrid- you made me laugh my head off at the armpit-contortions picture in my head! Hahah. I think living further north it's probably more ok to be in the sun as it's less intense. I suppose the rest of the world has agreed that the English are a little kooky anyway. :) There's worse things to be.Stephanie Lynn- I have never heard of someone having a tanning bed in their house! Weird! No wonder your aunt has had skin cancer (twice!). Wow. I'm not worried about Ivy being that way…Tanit-Isis… Num num, flaky skin… Those poor blondes. White people really aren't suited for this climate, the longer I live here the more I think so. Kathy- I don't know, but if you figure it out let me know. I am really careful, and I'm still darker than I should be. I have a weird patch of skin on my hand with no melanin, just a birth mark. When my skin is at it's whitest, I can't see the patch. My arms and face are much darker than that patch and my tummy, I don't really know why.

  10. I'm naturally pale. I love it. My skin is very sensitive to the sun, and 30 minutes exposure will have me red. I use an SPF lotion daily, and will cover my skin as much as possible. When I wear makeup, I use Bare Escentuals cover up that has SPF protection as well. Personally, I think being pale has a sense of style to itself. I can pull off colors that tanned people can't. I can pull of styles that tanned people can't. And since I'm from San Francisco where we don't get too much direct sunlight, it's really easy to spot a fake tan. It's also kind of disgusting to see people who tan regularly because their skin has so many spots, but their face are perfectly clear because of all the make-up. I'm all for being pale, it just means that I'm taking care of myself.

  11. As a brit I have to agree that sunshine makes us a bit nuts becuase we don't get much of it. I've not been one for sitting out in the sun all that much and I am often told I look younger than I really am. Staying out of the sun and not smoking have really helped my skin.

  12. Great post, I lost my dad to skin cancer when I was very young (he was in the army and travelled in sunny climes for years) so mums always drummed it into us to cover up etc in the sun. Brits are slowly getting the message I think, most people I know are usually careful when the sun is very strong now, especially with children. But I think they forget how strong the sun can be, especially when we don't have weeks on end of sunshine!!!!

  13. I totally agree with you on the tanning thing. I think it's absurd to want to be any extreme – including extreme white! In a lot of Asian countries they have the opposite – whitening creams and the desire to be pale. Which can be just as damaging if you read about the stuff that goes into those creams.Why can't we be happy with what we've got?I'm in a particularly annoying position however as I'm quite in-between! From my mother I've inherited skin that tans quite easily and it doesn't take long for me to go fairly brown in summer even without intentionally tanning. However, my legs stay annoyingly white…but not the nice pale of an English rose – because I'm no English rose! I'm just boring and pinky/white blah. So I use a little fake tan – those that double as moisturiser, to lessen the stark contrast between my upper and lower body. I should just be okay with this! I know I'll never be really pale nor really tan. But thankfully I live in Melbourne and I can wear stockings about 70% of the year – nice brown vintage fully fashioned ones give the glamorous appearance of a healthy tan, without any UV or orange from the bottle! :-D

  14. That comment about being lazy, it´s just too much! Geez…Talk about being ignorant!I agree with some of the comments here, that we are a bit crazy about the sun up north, and it´s not just the brits. Visit any little patch of sand by some water – any excuse for a beach – in my part of the world, and it will be packed with overly tanned Scandinavians wanting more. The silly thing is that we have a nice little hole in the ozone layer here, if I remember correctly, so people really should stay out of the sun! But they don´t. Both premature aging and skin cancer are two major reasons for being careful in the sun. I love being out and about in the summer (I recognize Sigrid´s D-vitamin comment), but I really am far more comfortable in the shade than in the sun. Every summer I work outdoors, and so I am very careful about wearing good sunscreen on all parts of my body that are exposed to the sun. And I ALWAYS wear something on my head. I always feel a bit out of place (but I don´t mind much) when my darling and I go on vacation to some place warm, and everyone just lays there out on the beach wearing as little as possible, hour after hour, and I sit in my kaftan and sunhat under my parasol. I like the look of a natural tan, and I recognize myself in Tanit-Isis leg description ;-), but the older I get, the more careful I am about being out in the sun.

  15. Solvi, I've never heard of the Scandinavian hole. Now I'm off to read up.The thought of you lazing on a beach with kaftan, sunhat and parasol is sweet. :)

  16. I find myself torn on this topic. I am a native Californian, with Native American ancestry, and as I grew up, it seemed I had a permanent tanned complexion, which I hated as a teenageer, when I longed to be a pale faced Goth. I have been living in Scotland for nearly 12 years now, and my skin has never been paler, though give me a few rays of sunlight, and I start to go brown again. Lack of sun here makes me long to feel a little heat on my skin and admittedly, I like seeing my two young boys with a bit of colour to them. But the consequences of tanning worry me enough to take precautions. I have 2 cousins, both naturally pale, who after years of tanning and tanning beds have had numerous growths removed from their skin. One, sadly, has since been diagnosed with Stage4 Melanoma – age 42, with a 3 year boy she risks leaving motherless. It certainly hasn't taken her tragedy to give me a slap in the face about sun protection, but it does emphasise certain vanities I have had, and makes it much easier to leave them behind.

  17. I already have a lot of of sun damage, just from being a kid and playing outside in south Florida and the Panama Canal Zone. We used to get tanned through the light coloured bits of our bathing suits!I don't like frazzling in the sun. I get heat rash, etc. For me, a tan looks nice for about three days, then it takes weeks for the yellow undertone to fade out, and my forearms are just a little more crepe-y.I will admit, now that I live at a very high latitude, there is something wonderful about the sun coming out after the dark days of winter and people really do need a little sun to produce vitamin D, which they literally can't do 6 months a year. That said, no one needs to turn themselves to shoe leather to do it.I admit that brown thighs look thinner and less cottage-cheese-y to me. I just don't wear shorts anymore. I can't be bothered to faff around with tan in a bottle, and I don't like the smell. I went back home this Easter to visit my mom in Florida. You see a lot of people there who look old and worn before their time because of all the sun. At 30 the bloom of youth is completely gone and their face already looks slightly saggy. Who wants to look like an old scrubber woman at 35?

  18. Hello from sundrenched Scotland (or not!)I am naturally as pale as moonlight and I have never used a sunbed. My daughter is half-Afro-Caribbean and would probably tan very quickly but avoids the sun because her face swells up in high temperatures. However, being orange appears to be a status symbol round these parts. The well-off and the wannabes all get spray-painted and / or use tanning beds. One of my daughter's school colleagues actually took the afternoon off school for a tanning appointment!?! Look at any wedding photo and all the "ladies" are that unnatural colour – just look at the pictures of Pippa at The Wedding! There is definitely a sneering look which comes over the tanned when they see a paleface like me. I lump it together with the current trend for extreme hair removal (you know where I mean!) and I am thankful that at 46 I am out of the "dating pool" and the pressure to look like a porn star. But I do worry about the messages my daughter is getting about what a woman should look like. And the potential damage to health.

  19. In highschool, girls in my acquaintance would take off from school to go tan before big social events. "You're SO TAN!" was a huge compliment. I never went tanning, but I did used to lay out on my dorm's sun deck. It was boring. Funny you should mention Pippa… I noticed how hard she worked, the great fit on her dress and her orange skin. Then I see all this buzz about how gorgeous and fashionable she is… Right…

  20. Good for you and keep it up! Pale is gorgeous, tanned means wrinkles..I think the skin cancer message has got through more here in Australia than elsewhere. Not being tanned doesn't seem such an issue in Australia than in Europe. Whenever I travel to Europe people always seems surprised that I am not a bronzed Aussie.

  21. When I was growing up in the 70's kids would sit by me in gym class and say it was to make them look tanner — I was ghostly white. I was badgered by cousins to get tan. And let me tell you, I hate it when people said that if I tanned enough my freckles would turn into one big one. That's stupid! My husband and I both remember the girl on campus who tanned all the time — her skin looked like leather.I like my pale freckly skin. Freckles are eternal youth, you know! I just cover up with hats and tops. Like you and Joy I don't trust sunscreens though I do have to use them occasionally. My sister and I were mistaken for twins a couple of times — I'm ten years older! I now have the graying hair of my age but not the skin.

  22. I personally never tan on purpose, though I don't go to great lengths to cover up (the sun isn't so harsh in the norther part of the northern hemisphere). But around here they've made laws that you have to be 18 years old to tan (supposedly adult) and they have medical warnings posted everywhere in artificial tan salons just like there are warnings on cigarette packs.

  23. I live in Cairns, and I put on sunscreen every morning. I keep out of the sun as much as possible, but even so I'm very brown for a "white" person. I have annual skin cancer checks- so far, so good. I visit my family in Canada every year, and when I arrive I always notice how fresh and lovely people's skin looks. I'm not complaining that my skin is ageing too quickly, because that is simply the price I pay for choosing to live in the tropics. But only the tourists sit in the sun here!

  24. As an African-American, I never understood the obsession with tanning, especially in light of evidence that it is an un-healthy practice. My brown skin does get darker when I'm in the sun. My skin is about 4 different shades of brown and I wish it were all the same color, but I choose not to do anything about it. I use sunscreen mostly in the summer when more of my skin is exposed.

  25. I have a driver's tan on my arm… I never go out and tan, but I don't use sunscreen unless I'm going to be out for a long time – I want the Vit D. Your English friend probably IS Vit D starved, and you are not. FWIW – you can always tell the tourists from the Midwest when they get to SoCal too. Same thing, drinking up the sun while we cover up.

  26. Ivy's thinking is the same 'junk skin science' that I heard coming out of the friends of my daughters who frequented tanning parlors. I would like to outlaw them, seriously. If you color your hair, the sun is not your friend – hats are necessary to stop your hair from fading. If you are fair haired and light eyed, the sun is not your friend. I have so many memories of seeing my mom's friends, who spent so much time outside making sure their legs were brown, with permanent stains on their legs when they became older, had faced that looked like old luggage, and who had skin cancers which had to be removed. Tanning is mad. Period.

  27. Where I live, we are desperate for sunshine (Halifax, Nova Scotia) and sunny days bring people out in droves, stripped down to shorts and tank tops. We crave the sun.While I understand that tanning is not good, we all do need what the sun provides (vitamin D for one) and my province has the highest incidence of Krohns' disease, which has been linked to lack of sunshine.

  28. We grew up mostly outside in central North Carolina. I never tanned — always burned red as a lobster. Now I have rosacea, and am constantly warned by my doctor to stay out of the sun. My younger brother died of a metastatic melanoma ten years ago, attributed to all the sun he took as a child and teenager. Too much sun kills. Brown fat does not "look better than pale fat." Beauty is not worth dying for.

  29. In Asia, there's a reverse issue. Women apply cosmetics to lighten their skin because darker skin implies lower class/lighter skin is more desireable. I'm happy with my healthy glow – not to be confused with tan. Of course, I live in Florida where we get plenty of sun just walking from the house to the car.

  30. In Seattle it's normal to be pale–even in summer we don't get consistent sunny days so everyone covers up or wears sunscreen. I wear sunscreen, on my hands too, daily at least half the year. Sunhats and sleeves are so much easier than applying and reapplying sunscreen, plus no chemicals! I was in Georgia (US) last July for a wedding and so many people had dark tans. It worried me, and looked so unhealthy. There were folks with reddish-brown skin, ewwww. I thought tanning was an outdated fad. Here's hoping it becomes one!

  31. I live in North-East Florida and I tan on purpose. I don't do it very much — maybe once every two or three weekends — and then only 20 minutes on my front and 20 minutes on my back, with coconut oil on my skin.Part of why I do it is to sweat out the toxins. When I'm done, I do smell of sweat, then I wipe the oil off with a towel and take a nice shower. I really think if I didn't get enough sun I would acquire Seasonal Affective Disorder.The other reason I do it is to have some color to my skin so I don't burn when we go kayaking. I don't get dark at all, but I can go kayaking for two hours without burning. I prefer natural color to the chemicals in sunscreen.

  32. As someone else who glows in the dark, I've never understood the obsession with tanning. Of course, the fact that I can't tan may have something to do with that. My 'tanned' skin is fairer than my husband's never-seen-the-light-of-day skin. And on the rare occasions when I've been silly and managed to get burned badly, I'm always just as pale when it goes away. I have managed to get burned simply hanging the laundry on the line, so I try to avoid the sun as much as possible. My husband and son on the other hand.. well, they tan if they so much as think about sunlight, and don't seem to burn no matter how long they're in the sun for. I keep my son covered up, but the husband has a mind of its own.The thing that concerns me however with all the furor about tan=bad (which it obviously is, I'm not diputing that), is that if the sun is avoided at all costs, the result can be vitamin-D deficiency. Of course here in Australia there is enough incidental sunlight even if you stay in the shade all the time, but in places that don't have a ruddy great hole in the sky above them, this can be a real concern. A balance needs to be found, instead of flip flopping from one extreme to the other.

  33. I believe I read that people need about 4 minutes of sun exposure a day for vitamin D production, though I'll look more into it because there must be several variables involved… Amount of melanin in the skin, how much exposed skin, and region….

  34. Fascinating responses. In Minnesota there is only enough sun from April until September to make Vitamin D. Sadly, the population most affected by diseases related to vitamin D definciency (including, possibly autism) are recent African immigrants who have dark skin and also wear the hijab. Of course, silly tanning habits are probably much more hamful than lack of sun.

  35. I get red and then I get white again and sitting in the sun is uncomfortanle and boring so I gave up trying to get tan when I was 20. At 41 all I can show for wrinkles are the faintest of crowsparks. I think I did a very wise decision. Besides, I like the pale look better than the tanned.

  36. Well…I'm late to this topic, but I'll join anyway.I grew up as one of the only Caucasians (2%) on a mainly Hawaiian and Asaian island in Hawaii, and no matter how much I tanned, I was never going to be as brown as my friends. And the sun gave me a terrible rash. So I stopped trying, slathered up, covered up, and thought I was the whitest thing possible. Then I visited the US mainland and realised that my skin is actually pale gold, even where it NEVER sees the sun, and never gets as white as most Caucasians. And I had to admit, I liked that. Then I moved to New Zealand, which has a long, cold, horrible winter. And I don't like the way my skin looks at the end of a long, cold, horrible winter. I feel healthiest when my skin has the tiniest bit of tan-y gold. But it is a tan I achieve by wearing tons of (extremely natural, no nanotech) sunscreen, long sleeves, and hats. It's the tan you get by being outside a lot gardening, hiking, but still taking care of your skin. And never actually tanning. It says "yes, I have been exposed to Vitamin D, but no, I haven't risked my health". My Mum has that tan – she's 60+, she's been a farmer in Hawaii for 40 years, and she has great skin that's not sun damaged, and has never had a cancer scare. And that's what I'm aiming for. Because I think that we are meant to spend time outside, and get some sun, but not meant to purposefully burn my skin.And Pippa's Oompa-loompa skintone. Blech.

  37. Clear, balanced, and sensible. I guess I have that glow, since I can see a difference between my lower arms and tummy. No real tan lines… Meh. I'm glad someone else noticed her skin…

  38. I realize I'm posting half a year later and this may not be seen, but as my father's a dermatologist I thought I'd address the questions of why, despite taking precautions, some of us get a bit tanned anyway.There are a number of possibilites. First and foremost, most people don't use enough sunscreen. You should use a teaspoon just for your face! I hate the feeling of it and tend to be guilty of spreading it too thin.Second, sunscreen only lasts a few hours. It needs to be renewed.Third, sunscreen's chemicals break down with age (don't use last year's bottle) and especially with heat (don't keep a bottle in the car!).Fourth, even if your clothing covers you, most fabrics don't actually provide 100% sun protection. Depending on how airy the weave is, you may be getting very little protection indeed. The more sheer the fabric, the less SPF it's giving you. Likewise, many straw hats actually let quite a lot of light through little gaps in the weave.Fifth, it can be hard to remember when it's overcast and cool that you're still getting quite a lot of UV exposure. It's less than full sun, but not as much less as you might think – especially in the summer when the sun is high overhead (or all the time if you're near the equator).Hope this helps!

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  42. Another danger in sunlight is the risk of Lupus. I have read that doctors think that just one episode of sun over-exposure may trigger Lupus in a susceptible individual. And of course people who have Lupus have to stay out of the sun because UV exposure worsens the disease.

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  44. Pingback: How I Got a Suntan and Upcoming Projects « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  45. I was a religious tanner for 15 years, and deeply regret it. Why did I bake a few times a week, year round, for so long? This may sound silly, but it almost became a bit of an addiction, not physically obviously. But I got so used to looking tanned, and feeling like I looked great tanned, that I began to feel insecure about how I looked when I would start to lose my tan. Without my dark tan, I wouldn’t wear shorts or skirts, or tank tops, and for some reason I never liked the look of my face without a tan. However with a dark tan, I felt great, and confident. The reason I compare it to a mental addiction (im not saying it was an addiction, just using it as an example), is because I realize now that it really was all in my head. I was almost obsessed about it, I thought I looked unattractive without a tan, my husband didn’t care, but I was tanning to look sexy. Im sure no one else cared either. It took me 2 years of not tanning to start to feel confident dressed for summer, and it felt great!
    Sadly It also took 2 serious warnings, months apart from 2 dermatologists for me to stop tanning. I was an idiot, and now I have to go for skin checkup’s twice a year, and have had countless pre-cancerous moles and spots removed. I will suffer from premature aging to my face. if only I had been more educated about it or cared more about my healthy future.
    I do everything I can without acting like im preaching to discourage young people I know from ever getting in a tanning bed or baking outside in the sun. I lost a friend to melanoma at 35 years old, she also baked for years, and she had 2 young kids.
    I think our media makes tanning look fun, glamorous, and sexy to the worlds most impressionable and insecure group of people, youth.
    The cigarettes of the 1950’s is the tanning of today.
    Thanks for a good article.

    • Thanks for your comment! Wow. I think likening tanning to smoking is incredibly apt.

      The thing I noticed about being tan is that I can kind of “get away with” more imperfections on my skin. When I have no tan at all, I have to be very careful with my skin care because it seems like blemishes show so much easier…

  46. Pingback: Pale Skin Maintenance: Yoko Cream and What Works Best « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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