As teens across the country prep for the most elegant night of the high school year, the Skin Cancer Foundation encourages young women who are prepping for prom to embrace their natural skin tones. Teens tempted to visit a tanning salon before prom should think twice: Just one indoor tanning session per year in high school or college boosts the risk of developing potentially deadly melanoma by 20%, and each additional session during the same year raises this risk almost another 2%. The risk of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common form of skin cancer, soars to 73% after six or more indoor tanning sessions.
“There is no such thing as a safe tan,” says Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “A tan is dangerous and comes with consequences. In addition to increasing your risk of skin cancer, the cumulative damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation can lead to signs of skin aging including wrinkles, brown spots and leathery skin.”
The Skin Cancer Foundation strongly advocates embracing one’s natural skin tone. The Foundation’s Go With Your Own Glow campaign features print public service advertisements developed to encourage women to love—and protect—their skin, whatever its natural hue. Go With Your Own Glow relies not just on health and safety information but also on fashion and beauty trends to convey the message that tanning is unhealthy and simply no longer in style. More information is available at www.skincancer.org/glow.
Those who can’t resist the bronzed look but won’t sacrifice their health to achieve it should consider sunless (UV-free) tanners. Sunless tanners effectively produce an even tanned look without causing skin damage. Self-tanners are easier than ever to apply and they are capable of providing natural-looking color. They are available in many different formulations, including creams, lotions, gels, pump sprays, aerosols and wipes.
Tips for properly applying sunless tanner
- Prep your skin. Exfoliate skin with a scrub or loofah and follow up with a moisturizer. This ensures that the sunless tanner will be absorbed evenly.
- Follow the package directions closely. For example, wait at least 12 hours after shaving to apply (to avoid dark spots in hair follicles) and don’t use on skin with active eczema.
- Be patient. Self-tanners can take 30-60 minutes to produce visible color on the skin, and this color typically lasts about five days.
- Repeat as necessary. Generally, the product should be reapplied daily for two to three days, until the desired shade is achieved. Then, reapply about three times a week to maintain the shade.
- Go to a pro. Professional spray tans are an option for those who want to safely achieve a bronzed look in a hurry. Many salons provide automated application of high concentration, no-rub, aerosolized non-UV tanning products, while others provide a customized airbrush tan. When receiving a professional spray tan, wear protective gear for the mouth, eyes and nose to prevent ingestion or inhalation.
- Don’t rely on sunless tanners for sun protection. Even if your self-tanner contains sunscreen, reapply a separate broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every two hours when outdoors. Note that sunscreen is not the only form of sun protection. The Skin Cancer Foundation has always recommended that everyone follow a complete sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade, covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, in addition to daily sunscreen use.
For more information, visit www.skincancer.org.