Tips on getting a perfect tan
Summer is fast approaching and I'm sure you're already starting to think about your holidays.
Whether you'll be able to enjoy just a few days of relaxation, or a longer trip away from home, don't forget to protect your skin from the sun.
Not only by the sea but also in the mountains, where the sun's rays are more intense and can cause the same damage as exposure at the beach.
The sun is a good friend to the body for many reasons. Sunlight increases the levels of serotonin, acting as an antidepressant, relieves stress and helps in the production of vitamin D, which is good for bones, teeth and the epidermis.
However, there are also disadvantages if you expose your skin without taking precautions, such as the risk of skin melanomas and premature ageing of the skin.
To get a perfect and healthy tan, and one that does not damage your skin, let yourself be kissed by the sun while following my nine tips.
Apply sunscreen suitable for your skin type
Sunscreen always has the SPF value on the packaging, which shows the level of protection it provides from UVB rays.
However, UVA rays can also be harmful to your skin. In 2006 the European Commission published its "Recommendation on the efficacy of sunscreen products and the claims made relating to them".
The text lists information that must be included on the labels of sunscreen products to simplify, clarify and standardise this information and make it easier for consumers to choose a suitable product.
Along with the various information usually provided, such as its effectiveness, precautions for use, and the sun protection factor (SPF), the degree of protection against UVA rays must also now be shown.
Remember to choose sunscreen with a sun protection factor suitable for your skin type. Your skin’s sensitivity to sun depends on the quality and quantity of melanin present in the skin.
In dermatology there are six different skin types based on complexion, the physical characteristics of the individual and the skin’s reaction to exposure to sunlight.
Here is the list to help you decide what skin type you have, taken from the chart in the European Code Against Cancer
- Skin type 1: Very light complexion and red hair. Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 50;
- Skin type 2: Very light complexion and blonde hair. Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 50;
- Skin type 3: Light complexion and brown hair. Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30;
- Skin type 4: Dark complexion and brown hair (Mediterranean skin type). Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 20;
- Skin type 5: Very dark complexion and brown hair (Asian skin type). Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15;
- Skin type 6: Natural very dark complexion (Negroid skin type).
Don't forget to apply protective cream often, especially after bathing, even if the bottle states that the product is "water resistant".
Keep track of your sun exposure time
Your skin reaches its maximum tanning point when it is no longer physically able to produce melanin (the tanning pigment), so there is no point in staying in the sun all day.
Each skin type has its own melanin limit, which is usually reached after two to three hours (much less if you have fair skin). Exceed this limit and you are only subjecting your skin to the risk of UV damage.
The Solar Radiation Research Group of the University of Valencia has carried out a study on the appropriate exposure time in order to enjoy the benefits of sun exposure, such as vitamin D production, while minimising risk.
The results of the study show that in the northern hemisphere in January, at noon, it takes more than two hours of sun exposure to get the recommended daily dose of vitamin D, while for the rest of the year it varies between seven minutes in July and thirty-one minutes in October.
These figures are obviously a rough guide because the length of sun exposure should be calculated based on the individual's complexion, the weather conditions, the season and the person's age.
However, don't expose yourself to the sun at any time between noon and 4:00 pm, because solar radiation is at its maximum intensity during these times.
Replace tanning products with supplements
Nothing you apply to your skin will increase the production of melanin, so don't rely on any so-called accelerated tanning products.
Taking a daily beta-carotene supplement could help, as this will strengthen the natural defences of the skin against UV rays, making it tan more easily.
Tanning supplements prepare the skin for the sun, hydrate it and protect cells from oxidative stress induced by UV rays.
Remember, however, that one approach cannot completely replace the other. These products must be used in conjunction with a healthy diet.
Eat foods that help you tan quickly
Beta-carotene protects the body from free radicals and helps the tan last longer.
It is found in foods like carrots, peppers, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons, melons, apricots, peaches, zucchini, broccoli and rocket.
Some foods are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that can increase resistance to the sun, which is found in tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, grapefruit and yellow pears.
Polyphenols are other antioxidants which improve the skin's elasticity and prevent cellular oxidation. They can be found in berries, red grapes and green tea.
Fish, nuts and avocados are rich in omega-3, and also have anti-inflammatory powers and prevent erythema.
Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids that can help protect against sunburn.
Remember that the eyes and the skin around them are delicate and sensitive to UV rays, so choose sunglasses that protect them.
Failure to follow precautions may result in the development of eye conditions such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and eye cancer.
The UNI - Italian National Unification Body - has drawn up the guide "Sole amico. Proteggersi con occhiali e abbigliamento anti UV a norma" (Sun friendly - Protect yourself with sunglasses and protective UV clothing).
This lists the problems that can arise from excessive exposure to the sun and gives information that must be provided for - the sunglasses to be considered in compliance:
- the mandatory EC marking;
- European standard UNI EN 1836 (or just EN 1836) in the instruction booklet that accompanies the product;
- the name of the manufacturer or supplier;
- the lens category (from 0 to 4, with the logo showing that they must not be used while driving, where this is necessary);
- instructions for care, maintenance and cleaning.
Protect children from the sun
Children's skin is very delicate and children under one year old should not be exposed to direct sunlight.
Always use a sunscreen with a very high sun protective factor, SPF 50, for children and buy sunglasses that comply with standards.
Make sure that when they play in the sun they always wear a hat to protect their head and never let them out in the sun during the hottest hours of the day.
Have any moles checked
Before you go out in the sun, go to a dermatologist and have your moles checked. Don't just check those that have become more prominent or have changed their appearance and shape. It is good practice to have them all inspected periodically.
Sunburn can damage your DNA, so always remember not to expose yourself to the sun without thinking, but always take precautions.
Have any skin blemishes checked out
Medicines such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or antidepressants can cause blemishes to appear on your skin.
If you notice any such blemishes on your skin, avoid exposure to the sun and consult your doctor.
Drink plenty of water
This is very important advice at any time, but it becomes even more important when you spend time in the sun.
Drink at least two litres of water a day to keep yourself and your skin well hydrated.
If you find it difficult to drink so much water, you can drink fruit juices, saline supplements or other juices, preferably without any added sugar.
I hope you'll find these tips useful and that they will help you get the tan you want in a healthy way.