Before I begin, I just want to put this out there: everything written below is just my personal opinion [with some facts mixed in here and there] that some people may or may not agree with. That’s totally okay, otherwise the world would have been a pretty boring place to live in. I am in no way criticizing or patronizing anyone who sees things differently. Also, I am not a medical expert, and nothing I say here should be considered as medical advice. With that out of the way, here’s why I made a decision to avoid tanning for the rest of my life.
This is not really a return of Talk To Me Tuesday weekly series, I just figured that from now on I will post in this category when I actually have something meaningful to share, and I feel like this particular topic is something I really wanted to talk about.
I wasn’t always this way, it took me almost 20 years to come to this conclusion. Like everyone I know, most of my life I had no idea tanning was bad. I first discovered the dangers of ultraviolet radiation after reading a beauty magazine. I must’ve been middle school age or around that, because that’s when I first got interested in beauty and fashion, so I spent my allowance on Cosmopolitan and Elle. They always have these awesome beauty features for Summer, with the best swimsuits for every body type, best waterproof products, and of course sunscreens and an obligatory article about the importance of SPF. I actually read it, instead of looking at pictures of cute sundresses and flip flops, and for the first time in my life I suddenly became aware of it all. I felt terrified of what I might have done to my body already. From that day, I always used SPF20 in Spring and Summer, and SPF30 at the beach. I thought as long as I don’t get a sunburn, I’m fine; after all, sunscreen is better than no sunscreen, right?
When I turned 21 or 22 one of my friends spent 3 months interning for Zara in Barcelona [what a dream internship, right?]. He [yes, he!] came back with a malignant melanoma on his back and luckily it was discovered early enough so the surgery was a success, but now he’s sporting a very nasty scar. He swears he wore sunscreen every day, and he wasn’t even outside during the day time that often because of his work hours. That incident made me up my SPF game all the way to 50 for Spring and Summer, and sometimes I would start using SPF15 or 20 on very bright Fall and Winter days. I also started giving preference to makeup with SPF.
Several years ago, I think I was around 25 back then, I decided to do some research about sun-blocking ingredients, and was amazed to find out that not all sunscreens are created equal. I won’t bore you with the details, but it really made me toss a few things from my stash. Here are my top picks for sunscreens; they all have amazing formulas and some of the best available ingredients. [note that some browsers don’t show the widget]
I also discovered a very important piece of information, that became the last straw in my decision to avoid the Sun all together. Sun damage is permanent and can not be reversed, however modern technology can make its appearance less visible. I’m talking about invasive treatments like surgical facelift and laser spot removal, both of which most of us will never do. How do we know that the skin is damaged? Well, if it changed color and became darker, then it’s already been damaged. That’s right, tanning without burning still causes skin damage within deeper layers that will come out when the person is older.
After leaning that, I decided to once and for all quit tanning, because it’s absolutely unnecessary, and trying to look like gorgeous bronzed models from magazine spreads at the cost of looking younger later in life just wasn’t worth it. From now on, I wear SPF50+ all over my face, body and hair when I go outside, and SPF30 at home, every single day, whether it’s Summer or Winter. I still enjoy going to the beach, because it’s fun, but I bring my sunscreen and coverups, and would never even think about spending all day there. Max I can handle is 2 hours, most of it in the shade, and definitely not during the peak hours of sun activity. After 5 years of being this way I really, honestly feel that my skin is aging so slowly, I almost don’t see any changes at all. I look the same at 30 as I did when I was 25, and it’s not wishful thinking. Of course it’s almost impossible to avoid the sun exposure completely, but I hope that my 50-year-old self will thank me for making this decision 5 years ago.
Tan is our body’s natural defense mechanism, by releasing melanin it’s trying to shield and protect itself from harmful radiation, but it is not an impenetrable shield, it’s a scar. Tanning is essentially an unhealthy habit that people voluntarily choose to do because they want to, like all bad habits such as smoking, drugs, and alcohol, even though it clearly doesn’t have a negative impact on other people’s lives. It’s like biting nails; but if nails can grow back once a person quits, the skin will never go back to its real age. That’s why people who spend a lot of time in the sun, protected or not, always seem to look older than those who don’t tan. It’s a matter of personal choice, and everyone has the right to do what they want with their bodies, as long as they are okay with the consequences. A life with no regrets is a life well-lived, after all!
Even though I learned to genuinely love my fair complexion, sometimes I like to change things up and fake a tan, too 🙂 My solution? Sunless tanners and bronzers are a great alternative. Here are some of my favorites, all tried and tested by yours truly. [note that some browsers don’t show the widget]
With all the negatives, sun rays have one important positive quality – this is the best natural source of Vitamin D, a hormone that controls calcium levels in blood, and promotes bone and muscle health. Getting Vitamin D naturally is better than taking it as a supplement, and all it takes is 10-15 minutes a day of unprotected sun exposure on a small part of the body. I do it early in the morning or at sunset, and usually expose one foot.
TL;DR [too long, didn’t read] Here are some key points:
- Sun damage is permanent and irreversible
- Even the faintest tan = sun damage
- Wind burn is actually sunburn
- Age spots are actually sun damage
- Sun is responsible for the majority of all premature wrinkles, skin sagging, and skin roughness
- Sun is the best source of Vitamin D, but only if we’re smart about it
Well, now that you know my story, feel free to share yours, I would love to see what you all have to say about this topic, but let’s keep it nice and polite in here. Feel free to share a link to this post with your friends and readers if you think they’d be interested in reading about my journey to pastiness 🙂
What is your take on tanning? Feel free to share your thoughts (in a respectful manner, please)!