Lady smiling, on a beach

5 tips for safe tanning

Is it possible to protect your skin and get your glow on?

For us Brits, being told not to sunbathe is up there with limiting ourselves to one sangria on the first night of our holiday – it’s just not going to happen. And who can blame us?

After months and months of grey skies, we jump at the chance to top up depleted vitamin D levels and bask on the beach or local park. We know it’s not the best thing for us (age spots anyone?), but we’re guaranteed to throw caution to the wind and strip down anyway.

But on the flip side, there is a real danger from too much sun exposure – it’s the leading cause of preventable skin cancer. So, while there is not yet a known “officially safe” way of tanning, the best way to go about getting your glow is to give your skin everything it needs to help it protect itself while you catch some rays.

The right cream

Check out the label – you need a broad-spectrum sunscreen when sunbathing. This means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays – the former cause premature ageing such as wrinkles and sun spots, and UVBs can cause cancer.

Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going out into the sun, and reapply 15 to 30 minutes after you start tanning (not the previous “every two hours” advice) – it will reduce 60 to 85 per cent of the ultraviolet exposure that would be received if sunscreen were reapplied at two hours!

Make sure you’re fully covered and re-apply whenever you get sweaty, after towelling or have been in the water. And know your SPF: 15 filters out around 93 per cent of UVB rays; SPF 30 keeps out 97 per cent and SPF 50 keeps out 98. They may seem like small differences, but those extra percentages can have a significant effect on premature ageing and skin cancer risk.

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Build it gradually

Resist the tempting lure of binge tanning. Not only will your tan last longer, you’ll also lower your risk of skin cancer, which is higher in people who have intense, intermittent exposure than those who are outdoors most of the time.

Little and often is the way forward, gradually building up. Start with 15-30 minutes each side (depending on how fair or dark your skin is), avoiding the hours when the sun is at its peak (10am-3pm – particularly important if you have fairer skin). Use a timer so you’re not tempted to “cheat” over your sun tanning time.

Drink up

But not alcohol, because you want your skin to be as hydrated as possible after a day being parched at the beach. Dry, dehydrated skin can look wrinkly as it tans, which, let’s face it, is not exactly the look we’re going for here. Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

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Seek shade

Shade offers additional protection, so take regular breaks to allow your skin to escape the rays. Cover up with clothing – although UV light can penetrate clothes, they can help work as a filter against it.

Fake it to make it

To be totally safe and avoid any risk of burning, ditch sunbathing altogether and invest in a good quality bottle of fake tan, which allows you to build up colour gradually, and will take you from pale to golden quicker than sun-worshipping will!

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