“Healthy Tans” Aren’t as healthy as you might think

Science & Technology


(WUTR-TV) — In one form or another, you might have heard that it’s healthy to soak up some rays in the sun and get some color from tanning. You might have also heard that a light “base tan” can prevent harsher sun burns. Unfortunately any tan, whether it be from the sun or a tanning bed, is damaging and the change in color you see on your skin is a visible sign of skin damage.

This damage is caused by Ultraviolet (UV) rays which are known to cause skin cancer. According to the CDC, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year in the United States. Fortunately, most skin cancers can be prevented by following these safety tips (CDC):

  • Seek shade, especially during midday hours. This includes 10 am to 4 pm, March through October, and 9 am to 3 pm, November through February. Umbrellas, trees, or other shelters can provide relief from the sun. 
  • Be extra careful around surfaces that reflect the sun’s rays, like snow, sand, water, and concrete.
  •  Wear sun protection gear like a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes. 
  • Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts and other eye problems. 
  • Wrap-around sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection by blocking UV rays from the side.
  • Wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants or a long skirt for additional protection when possible. If that’s not practical, try wearing a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. 
  • Apply a thick layer of broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher at least 15 minutes before going outside, even on cloudy or overcast days. Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.

Following these tips can help you avoid harmful UV rays and still enjoy all of your outdoor activities. If you’re unsure about the sun’s intensity in your area, check the daily UV Index for your zip code on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s website here. Also, if you’re wondering how to get vitamin D without exposing yourself to harmful UV rays, there are a variety of other, safer alternatives for vitamin D such as breakfast cereals, egg yolk, orange juice, vitamin D pills, and mushrooms!

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