Self tanners made their debut in the 1959 with the introduction of an orangey after-shave product called “Man Tan”. In recent years, sunless tanning solutions have made tremendous progress so that users can achieve a more attractive and uniform tan. So much so, they have become commonly used as an alternative to actual sun tanning or use of tanning beds. Some people believe that self tanners can give you a sort of “base” that will protect you from the harmful effects of the sun. But do they?
Self-tanners neither protect nor cause skin cancer. It is a myth that you need a “base” tan before heading out in the sun. In actuality, you are just exposing yourself to more UV rays not creating a protective layer. According to beautybrains.com, a survey study conducted by Boston University School of Medicine found that one third of the people surveyed believed that self tanners protected them from the sun’s harmful rays.
Based on these results, the authors of the study are urging the Food and Drug Administration to require all self-tanning products be required to contain sun block in their formulation. Currently, these products must all have warnings that they do not contain sun block if it’s not added. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, sunless tanning solutions alone do contain a SPF of four but that is not high enough to give adequate protection.
Other sources say that applying self tanners is best done at night so the color develops while you sleep and sunscreen protection is not needed then. It is better to educate sunless tan users that they must apply sunscreen separately as well as reapply rather than give them a false sense of protection.
The Boston study queried other practices of the 440 individuals questioned who were between the ages of 18 to 30. In this group they found that sunless tan users were also more inclined to use tanning salons, they tended to experience more sunburns in the summer than non-users and they were less aware of the risks of skin cancer.
My previous article, “Motivating Young Women Not to Use Tanning Salons” at www.empowher.com/skin-cancer/content/motivating-young-women-not-use-tanning-beds talked about appealing towards women's sense of attractiveness rather than focusing on cancer warnings to get better compliance of UV light avoidance. Sunless tan users are supposed to moisturize and exfoliate any dry skin prior to using so that the tanning solution goes on more evenly. Perhaps, encouraging them continue to “moisturize” with sunscreen to protect their sunless tan look and reduce wrinkles would be an effective motivator to increase their protection.
It can be argued that self-tanners provide a secondary protection from cancer since with self tanners people do not feel the need to go outside and soak up extra rays. However, it must be remembered that most self tanning solutions do not provide any real blocking of the sun’s rays. Sunscreen must be worn and reapplied as directed to gain full protection.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles