Believe it or not, up until the 1920’s tanned skin was seen as a sign of poverty and a clear, pale complexion that rarely saw the sun was a sign of glamour and luxury, in some cultures this is still the case. That was until Coco Chanel came along. As the story goes the fashion icon got a little too much sun on a yacht in Cannes, in 1923, and returned to the spot light with a bronze glow. Her sun- kissed look launched a fad……and eventually a whole industry that revolves around achieving the perfect tan.
Soon celebrities and socialites were flocking to tropical destinations during winter and using sunlamps to darken their once porcelain skin. During WW2, women used tea bags to mimic a natural tan. Less than a decade later, the first fake tan product, the ‘Man Tan’ hit the market. Rather than simply stain the skin, the Man Tan used a chemical derived from sugar cane called Dihydroxyacetone or DHA, to cause an effect among the amino acids on the skin surface. The ingredient was approved by the FDA for fake tans in the 1970s, and still used today in most self tan products.
When public health officials and dermatologists noticed a surge in skin cancer during the latter half of the century, it fuelled significant research into the effects of UV rays on our skin. Extreme skin exposure was linked to skin cancer and a host of other physical conditions. By the early 80’s tanning beds were becoming just as popular, as people assumed sunbeds gave you the tan without the danger, however research since has concluded that sunbeds are just as dangerous. The popularity of sunbeds has been on the decline ever since even with tanned skin staying firmly en vogue.
Early spray tans and products received a bad reputation for two reasons, they were orange giving an ‘oompa loompa’ effect and also left the client streaky. Then there was the less than appetising smell caused by using DHA in an unnatural form. Luckily for us these major beauty faux pas have been eclipsed by the new generation of self tan.
New self tan products have now gotten rid of the smell, using DHA differently and with the introduction of fragrance into the product. The colour is more natural and available in different shades for various skin tones. Specialised tan for face and body have also been developed as to be less comedogenic.
Now for the Science part…..
What is UV?
There are 2 main types of UV rays that damage our skin. Both types can cause skin cancer:
- UVB is responsible for the majority of sunburns. Ultra Violet Burning Rays
- UVA penetrates deep into the skin. It ages the skin, but contributes much less towards sunburn. Ultra Violet Ageing Rays
A third type of UV ray, UVC – Ultra Violet Cancer Rays, could be the most dangerous of all, but it is completely blocked out by the ozone layer and doesn’t reach the earth’s surface.
What is sunburn?
A tan is your body defending itself against the Sun. Sunburn is a clear sign that the DNA in your skin cells has been damaged by too much UV radiation. Getting sunburn, just once every 2 years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer.
Sunburn doesn’t have to be raw, peeling or blistering. If your skin has gone pink or red in the sun, it’s sunburnt. For people with darker skin, it may just feel irritated, tender or itchy.
You can’t feel UV rays – the heat from the sun comes from infrared rays, which can’t burn you. This is why people can still burn on cool days.
Too much UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds can damage the genetic material (the DNA) in your skin cells. If enough DNA damage builds up over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer.
Your body has ways of repairing most of the damage. But it is not perfect – some damaged DNA can be left behind. Your body’s attempt to repair this damage is what causes the painful symptoms of sunburn.
Whatever your age, the best way to enjoy the sun safely and protect your skin from sunburn is to use a combination of shade, clothing and sunscreen. Children and teenagers might need a reminder or a helping hand, but setting a good example yourself is a great way to help them learn and get into good habits.
When the sun is strong:
- Spend time in the shade, especially between 11am and 3pm in the UK
- Cover up with clothes, a hat and sunglasses.
- And use a sunscreen with a protection level of at least SPF15 and 4 stars. Use it generously and reapply regularly. Holidays abroad will need significantly more coverage, lets start at a good factor 30 😉
Self tan and Spray Tans are fully approved by the FDA and are not considered a health risk however in recent years tanning injections, more commonly known as Melanotan has become widely available
What is Melanotan and how does it work?
Melanotan is a synthetic hormone that works by increasing the levels of melanin, a natural dark pigment in the skin. Melanin causes the skin to darken or tan. There are 2 types of Melanotan – Melanotan I and Melanotan II.
It is currently illegal to sell tan injections such as Melanotan, as this product is unlicensed.
Why is Melanotan illegal?
Melanotan is illegal in the UK because:
- It has not been tested for safety, quality or effectiveness.
- No one knows what the possible side effects are or how serious they could be. Known side effects include respiratory problems, liver and kidney problems and thyroid issues.
The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) tests medical products in the UK. They are warning people not to use Melanotan and they say that the product is being “advertised and sold illegally”.
We all like to look good and its fashionable to have a tan, we all enjoy holidays in the sun and we definitely need our dose of Vitamin D but please stay safe! To look more into the dangers of the sun and how you can prevent damage head to