The term 'healthy tan' oxymoron

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By The Staff

Getting a good sun tan in the summertime used to be the in thing for many Americans. It was considered an ideal, something to strive for – that beautiful summer tan, that Coppertone tan, that healthy tan.

But as it turns out, there’s no such thing as a healthy tan. A tan indicates damage to the skin, period. And the more you tan, or worse, burn, the more susceptible to skin cancers you are.

This is not a fact that doctors recently figured out. They’ve known it for years. For at least a couple of decades now, dermatologists have implored Americans to wear sunscreen when they’re out, especially during the long days of the summer.

Many people take heed. They regularly slather on sunscreen lotions that help block out ultraviolet (UV) light or sunlight. They also wear clothing, hats and sunglasses to block out the rays.

But many other people do not. Despite all the warnings of the dangers of tanning, many people continue to worship the sun and strive for the perfect, eh, healthy-looking summer tan. They slather on oils to bake in the sun or will lie in tanning beds to achieve a tan.

For those of you who still do this, we’ll repeat the warning you’ve undoubtedly heard so many times. This is a bad idea. The tan is damaging your skin. And if you keep it up, the damage WILL take its toll. If you’re lucky, the damage will only result in premature wrinkling of your skin. If you’re unlucky, you’ll get skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in America. The two most common types of skin cancer – basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, are highly curable. But melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous, especially among young people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly 8,000 Americans died of skin cancer in 2004, the most recent year in which it has statistics available.

According to the CDC, those most likely to get skin cancer from UV rays have:

n Lighter natural skin color

n Skin that burns, freckles, gets red easily or becomes painful from the sun

n Blond or red hair

n Blue or green eyes

n A family member who has had skin cancer

People who spend a lot of time outdoors for work or play are also more likely to get skin cancer.

If you want to achieve a tan, the best way to do it is with a tan-in-a-bottle product or a spray-on tan that you get a salon. Spray-on tans and tan-in-a-bottle products have become a rage in the last few years. They’re not perfect. If they’re not applied right, you can come out with a streaky or obviously fake tan. But these products have advanced so much in recent years that, with some effort, you can achieve a fake tan that doesn’t look fake.

If tanning isn’t your objective, please make sure that protecting your skin and that of your children from the sun part of your regular routine this summer. That means buying and wearing sunscreen when your outside.

According to the CDC, the sun can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes, so you should always have some sunscreen on hand. Sunscreens come in lotions, ointments, creams, gels, wax sticks and sprays.

You should use a sunscreen with a Sun Protective Factor (SPF) of 15 or more. It’s best to apply it a few minutes before you go outside so it has enough time to dry. You should reapply it if you re out for two hours or more, or after you swim or engage in activities that make you sweat, according to the CDC.

We urge you to take care of yourself and family this summer. Wear sunscreen.