"Is It Possible To Tan Without Damaging My Skin?"

Summer's nearly over but many of you may still be tempted to get yourself a “healthy glow” for your beach bodies. A lot has been said in recent years about the dangers of solar UV radiation which hits you every time you go out into the sun - and some of the time you aren't in direct sunlight. But can tanning, in a controlled way with an appropriate sunscreen, be safe?


What we know as a “tan” is actually pigment (Melanin) deposited inside the cells of the outer layer of your skin (epidermis) by specialized cells called melanocytes. This is done to shield your skin cells from future UV radiation. Your melanocytes do this as a direct response to being exposed to UV radiation.

What you recognize as a tan is therefore increased Melanin in your epidermis, deposited there soon after you exposed your skin to UV radiation. It is a sign that, despite the protective measures you took, like using an appropriate sunscreen, wearing a hat, long sleeves and UV protective sunglasses, or limiting your time spent in direct sunlight, UV radiation still managed to reach your melanocytes, and incite them to create more Melanin! A tan is therefore a sign of recent skin damage.

Unfortunately the idea that a tan is a “healthy glow” is not accurate.

People who like to tan sometimes cite the fact that Vitamin D can only be synthesized by your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight - which is true. But let's assess this with some other facts:

  • As a guide, 30 minutes of sun exposure to unprotected skin is equivalent to ingesting 10,000 IU of Vitamin D.
  • Harvard Public Health states that most authorities on Vitamin D believe that a healthy amount of Vitamin D is between 1,000 and 2,000 units daily.
  • So only a very minimal amount of exposure to sunlight is required for a healthy daily dose of synthesized Vitamin D.
  • The American Academy of Dermatology states that you can meet your daily requirements without exposing your skin to UV rays. You can seek out dietary sources instead.
  • Good natural dietary sources for Vitamin D include fatty fish like Salmon, Sardines and Tuna; and eggs, shiitake mushrooms and orange juice.
  • WebMD has a slideshow with some basic facts about vitamin D.
  • For a detailed recommendation for replacing naturally synthesized Vitamin D with dietary Vitamin D, please consult a qualified doctor!


It is good to be aware of the facts above, but we're not seriously suggesting that you avoid all sunlight every day for the rest of your life! Most damage from solar UV radiation is accumulated damage and occurs over the course of your life. For the average person, the majority of damage doesn't occur on those infrequent visits to the beach, but on all of the occasions UV radiation reaches your skin when you are not thinking about it. We urge you to take appropriate precautions, every day, whether your exposure to UV is going to be major or minor, to keep your skin healthy and beautiful!

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"How to Compile a Dry Skin Regimen"
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Photo Credit: Misha Taylor

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