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Bronze Hunters – Tan the RIGHT Way This Year (With Science)

Whether you’re hoping to flee winter’s bite for sunnier shores or eagerly awaiting Britain’s own warmer months, this is the time of year many of us start dreaming, longing, for a tan. You’re probably excited to work on yours.

However, getting that sun-kissed look without damaging your skin can be tricky.

Thankfully, there are plenty of scientifically-backed ways to ensure your skin achieves that summer glow.

Here are our essential tips for tanning the right way this year:

  1. Prep your skin for tanning.
  2. Don’t skip the sunscreen.
  3. Change positions often.
  4. Eat the right foods.
  5. Know your tan limit.
  6. Take shade breaks.
  7. Adjust your straps.
  8. Avoid tanning beds.
  9. Tan at the right time.
  10. Treat your skin after tanning.
  11. Pay heed to the UV index.

 

1. Prep Your Skin for Tanning

For the best tan possible, you should give your skin some love and care before you hit the beach.

Prepping your skin for the sun not only keeps it safe from UV rays—it also helps your tan last longer and your skin look smoother.

Exfoliate at least a week out from your sandy excursions for the best results. Doing so will make it less likely that your skin will flake from tanning.

Also, get in the habit of moisturising in the evening. Spending all day in the sun can deplete your skin of its natural moisture and oils, so it’s essential to replenish them.

 

2. Don’t Skip the Sunscreen

It might sound counterintuitive for tanning. However, wearing sunscreen is vital anytime you lay out in the sun.

Research shows that not using sunscreen correlates with an increased likelihood of skin cancer. And it’ll also make it much easier for you to get sunburns.

Since you want protection without hindering your chances at a tan, stick to SPF 30. And remember to reapply your sunscreen every two hours and immediately after swimming.

 

Person sunbathing next to body of crystal water

3. Change Positions Often

When relaxing at the beach and listening to the waves, it’s easy to lose track of time. However, if you’re working on your tan, it’s crucial to readjust your position periodically.

You might otherwise get an uneven tan, where only one half of your body looks bronze. Or suffer painful sunburns from overexposure.

And changing positions doesn’t just mean flipping over onto your stomach!

You should also rotate which direction your toes point, so sunlight hits you from different angles. That way, you can achieve the most even tan possible.

 

4. Eat the Right Foods

I know what you’re thinking: what does food have to do with tanning? As it turns out, the answer is: a lot more than you may realise!

According to research, lycopene is a nutrient that protects us from the damage of UV rays. You can find it in foods such as:

  • Watermelon
  • Papaya
  • Guava
  • Tomatoes

Another beneficial nutrient is beta carotene. Studies suggest that it may help reduce photosensitivity (sensitivity to UV rays), making sun exposure less harmful.

Foods high in beta carotene include leafy veggies and fruits, like:

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes

 

5. Know Your Tan Limit

You may be surprised to learn that there is a limit to how much your body can tan in a day.

Past that point, your body can’t produce any more melanin. Meaning your skin won’t get any more bronze or olive-hued, but it will still be susceptible to sun damage.

For most people, this melanin cut-off point occurs at two or three hours. And for fair skin, that period can be as short as one hour.

So next time you hit the beach, make sure you aren’t soaking in the sun for too long.

 

6. Take Shade Breaks

Start taking shade breaks if you want to get the most out of your tan.

Staying in direct sunlight for extended periods can wreak havoc on your skin. Particularly at midday, when UV ray intensity is at its peak.

So, to combat this, head into the shade periodically while you sunbathe.

Doing so will keep your skin from getting too dry or sunburnt. Which, in addition to being healthy, also helps your tan last longer and appear more dazzling.

 

two people lying on beach sunbathing

7. Adjust Your Straps

The last time you went sunbathing, did you get those pesky pale tan lines?

If so, try adjusting your straps the next time you’re at the side of your pool. That way, sunlight can reach those places that stay covered regardless of how you lay.

Additionally, consider trying on strapless tops. They’re usually easier to move around for tanning purposes.

On the other hand, also make sure you cover up places that are already sunburnt. That way, you won’t cause unnecessary harm to already damaged skin.

 

8. Avoid Tanning Beds

Beware of tanning beds!

While they may seem like a convenient alternative during the winter months, they’re far from safe. In fact, they can be even more hazardous than direct sunlight.

One study found that using a tanning bed just once before the age of 35 increases your chances of developing melanoma by 75%. And while you might want a gorgeous golden glow, it’s not worth your health.

If you want to be sun-kissed without that risk, avoid tanning beds and use plenty of sunscreen while sunbathing. And when it’s too cold out, stick with fake tans.

 

9. Tan at the Right Time

The time of day can have a major impact on the quality of your tan.

The sun is typically strongest from 11am to 4pm. Meaning that if you want a quick tan, that’s usually the best timeframe to go out.

Unfortunately, that’s also when the sun’s UV rays are at their most intense.

So, if you have photosensitive skin, try sunbathing in the morning or later in the afternoon. You may have to adjust more often since the sunlight is at an angle. But going then might save you from uncomfortable sunburns and skin peeling.

 

10. Treat Your Skin After Tanning

Just like how you should prep your skin before tanning, you should also treat it after.

If you’re trying to get that sun-kissed glow, chances are at some point you’ll get a sunburn. When that happens, it’s crucial you apply aloe vera (or another ointment) to help it heal.

Moisturising after sunbathing is also an excellent way to accentuate your tan. It’ll give your skin a healthy and hydrated lustre to help show off your bronze and gold hues.

Drinking water is also a solid idea. It’s easy to get dehydrated while tanning and the additional moisture can help replenish the oils in your skin.

 

11. Pay Heed to the UV Index

The UV index is a simple scale that, like this post, ranges from 1 to 11. Unlike this post though, the higher the number, the more dangerous the situation.

The UVI, as it’s known, relates to the strength of the sun’s ultraviolet rays at any given time or place, accounting for how close a region is to the sun.

And, better still, it couldn’t really be a simpler tool for you to use (a quick Google search or scan of your favourite weather app should show it to you). Here’s a quick breakdown of the UV index:

  • 1-2: Low UV, you shouldn’t need protection.
  • 3-5: Moderate UV, it’s best to wear at least some sun protection.
  • 6-7: High UV, you will definitely need sunscreen.
  • 8-10: Very High UV, this calls for extra protection – make sure you carry sunscreen with you to top up.
  • 11+: Extreme UV. It’s best to stay inside and avoid these kinds of sweltering conditions, particularly between 11am and 4pm, where the sun is at its peak.

 

Closeup of sunburnt person, still sunbathing

Coping with Sun Damage

As the adage goes – if you play with fire, you’re going to get burned. And the truth is, even if you take all necessary precautions, there’s still a chance you could suffer sun-damaged skin. At least at one point or other in your life.

A light spot of sunburn can be easily managed with the likes of topical aloe vera, but what about more significant, persistent issues?

Here are a few you might encounter, and what to do about them:

 

Thread Veins

Thread veins, aka spider veins, happen when veins become visible through your skin. If your skin soaks up enough sun damage, it can become thinner, and therefore more susceptible to thread vein development.

Thankfully, laser treatments exist which can painlessly reduce spider veins to the point of non-visibility.

 

Wrinkles

You’ve likely seen people who’ve spent their whole lives overdoing it when it comes to tanning. Perhaps you’ve also observed their undeniable similarity to leather.

Wonderful as it may feel to have a tan, you should keep in mind that in doing so, you’re depleting the natural collagen in your skin. There are varying degrees to which fine lines and wrinkles will develop from sun damage, and different treatments for each.

Minor lines can often be reduced with a simple skin or chemical peel, to restore your smooth skin to its former glory. These work by exfoliating your skin and encouraging it to replenish its natural collagen, and rejuvenate youthful-looking skin. Alternately, you could tackle this type of sun damage with microneedling, which creates a similar result.

Significant wrinkles, meanwhile, can be treated with the likes of dermal fillers or targeted laser treatment.

 

Pigmentation

Caused by an excess in melanin production, pigmentation is all too common in those who over-indulge in tanning. Thankfully, this process can be effectively reversed, restoring your skin to a fresher state, through the likes of laser treatment or skin peels.

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