Picture this: you’re lying on a white sand beach in your bikini, listening to nothing but the salty surf ebb and flow upon the shore. Sounds delightful, right? For plenty of people, summer means spending time at the shore.
And many are still willing to accept the risk of skin cancer in exchange for a glowing tan. If you’re one of them, and you’re ready to accept the risk of cancer, are you also ready to accept the way you’ll look at 40? At 50?
As you sit in the sun without protection, you’re essentially baking your delicate skin even if you never get sunburned. Those harmful UVA and UVB rays can cause cancer, and that should be reason enough to take the necessary precautions. But the sun’s rays have several other adverse effects as well—causing problems that won’t show up right away.
And that’s really the insidious thing about tanning. The immediate payoff is a just-off-the-beach glow, a look that is highly desirable. But you’ll pay a price later on, sacrificing youthful looking skin in middle age—also highly desirable. If you choose a sun tan now, you will almost certainly regret it later.
One of the most telltale signs of sun damage is wrinkled skin. As your skin absorbs UVA/UVB rays, its natural elastin is slowly destroyed. Elastin is the stretchy protein in the skin that makes it tight, firm and able to bounce back from strain and distress. As we age, elastin breaks down, causing fine lines and wrinkles. The sun intensifies this process. If you’re a constant tanner, you can expect that by your 40s your skin will look up to ten years older.
Cumulative exposure to the sun can also cause your skin to develop areas of discoloration and unattractive spots. When we’re exposed to the sun, skin cells automatically assume a position of defense. Cells that reside in the epidermis called melanocytes produce melanin—a substance that acts as a fortress against the sun’s harmful beams. The tan you see after a day in the sun is actually the melanin reacting to the light it’s been exposed to. If too much melanin is produced, it can create areas of abnormal skin coloration, liver spots and unsightly freckles.