How To Tan Safely

Two things are guaranteed to happen as the days grow longer and temperatures rise. First, people start spending more time outside, whether they're exercising, on vacation or enjoying an evening barbecue. Second - and this applies to both men and women - our clothing shrinks considerably. Shoes are replaced with sandals, and long-sleeved shirts are replaced with tank tops (or bare skin). Pants are replaced by shorts, skirts and bikini bottoms.

Tanning is the result of those summertime truths. People used to think that a tan was healthy, and let's face it - it feels good to be tanned. Who wants to be that person on the beach (or on Facebook) with the blinding-white skin? Unfortunately, most people don't know how to tan safely, which means they ultimately end up with sunburn and skin damage. In the short term, a sunburn can be quite painful and unsightly. In the long run, repeatedly baking your skin beneath unfiltered UV rays can lead to cancer. And most of us would rather have pale skin that cancerous skin. Also, too much tanning and burning speeds up the skin's aging process, potentially leading to less desirable skin later in life.

There's no way to be 100 percent safe when tanning. However, by taking steps to protect your skin, you can significantly reduce your risks of skin damage and dangerous health complications. Yes, you can enjoy the warm summer weather without needing to worry about your health. Here's how:

Apply a daily sunscreen if you are only going to be getting incidental sun exposure, such as walking to and from home or work to your car. If you are going to be out in the sun for longer amounts of time, you are going to need to up your sun protection factor to at least an SPF 50 for your entire body. How much do you need to apply? The general rule is to picture a shot glass full of your SPF lotion to cover all your skin. It may sound like a lot, but it isn't and if you aren't applying it thoroughly enough then you won't be fully protected. Also you need to reapply every two hours or more if you have been swimming or sweating excessively.

You can also make fashion part of the plan to protect your skin. Hats can help keep the sun off your face, and some companies make SPF clothing that blocks out harmful UV rays. Lightweight, long-sleeve clothing can be hugely helpful in some situations.

Staying indoors during the sun's peak hours of 1 to 4 p.m. is also beneficial. That said, you don't have to avoid the sun at all times, and the Vitamin D your body receives from the sun's rays is actually quite good for you. So you don't want to be covered up all the time. Tanning safely requires a good balance of SPF, sun smarts, and proper planning. Just make sure you don't get burned and you should be fine this summer.

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