Summer: the word conjures the timeless scent of tanning oil, of salt and chlorine; images of sun-kissed bodies poolside, beachside, strolling down city streets with golden limbs glowing. Everyone, we are told, looks good with a little extra color. Not to burst the bubble, but “There’s no such thing as a healthy tan,” says Dr. Amy Wechsler, N.Y.C.-based dermatologist, psychiatrist, and skin-care adviser to Chanel Skincare—a company whose namesake we have to thank for popularizing the all-over glow.
The facts are sobering. According to the Skin Cancer FoundationGetting a sunburn five times a year increases the chances of skin cancer, and getting on tanning beds may prove to be worse. According to another leading N.Y.C.-based board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Patricia Wexler, “Getting on tanning beds before the age of 35 increases one’s risk of melanoma by 75 percent. Tanning beds deliver pure U.V.A. (long wave) that penetrates deep into skin’s dermis layer and causes damage on a cellular level without S.P.F.” One should also note, long-term effects of U.V.B. (short wave, which causes superficial burns) exposure at an early age contribute to premature aging that may not appear until years later., more people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined; one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Even with this knowledge, sun-worshippers make the mistake of thinking that getting a “base burn” at the beginning of the summer will lead the way to achieve Kim Kardashian’s perfect golden skin tone. Wrong!
There’s only one safe way to tan, according to another N.Y.C-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner: “When it comes in a bottle! And ideally, skin check before spray tan, but the most important thing is to get a skin check at all!” Bottle tanning darkens all brown spots and moles, making it more difficult to detect any abnormalities.
It’s a good thing self-tanning products are getting better and more sophisticated every year, mimicking a solid tan without the harmful rays. There are very popular niche brands like Tan-Luxe and James Read, there’s also Vita Liberata Organics and St. Tropez Tan, 100 percent natural Ecocert approved D.H.A. that is vegan-friendly. Of course, mass brands like L’Oreal Paris can also deliver golden looking tans without that “strange scent” synonymous with self-tanners and with no transfers.
But, ah, the sun! How can one resist that warmth on the skin? If you can’t, know this: “You only need 15 minutes daily of sun exposure for adequate Vitamin D with a normal diet,” says, Dr. Wexler. So for the rest of the day in the sun, sunscreen should be applied. She added, “Black skin has an S.P.F. of only 4, therefore, darker skin needs the same amount of protection as lighter skin tones. Melanoma in black skin has higher mortality because of its later diagnosis.” Dr. Wechsler concurs, “Fairer skin tones are more susceptible to skin cancer, but no skin tone is immune! Bob Marley died of metastatic melanoma. When skin cancer is diagnosed on darker skin, it’s often further along because it’s not realized sooner.”
Every year, sunscreen makers provide a variety of options in skin protection against the sun. But be sure to look for “Broad-spectrum protection with at least S.P.F. 30, regardless of your skin tone,” says Dr. Zeichner. “And yes! Apply even on a cloudy day because U.V.A. light penetrates through the clouds and windowpanes. Also because we rarely reapply, starting out with a higher S.P.F. guarantees the best protection for the longest period.” There’s a wide range of S.P.F.s from brands like the beloved Neutrogena that goes up to S.P.F. 100 and La Roche-Posay to sleekly packaged Chanel UV Essentiel; the green-minded organic Soleil Toujours sunscreens are also trés chic; options are abundant. Supergoop! offers an extensive line of broad-spectrum S.P.F. 40 and higher from a colorless Unseen Sunscreen that can be used as foundation primer, to setting mist called Defense Refresh for easy reapplication. Oh, there’s a setting powder, too, for mattifying the complexion.
1. L’Oréal Sublime Bronze ($12; bedbathandbeyond.com).
2. St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Mousse ($42; ulta.com).
3. Tan-Luxe Wonder Oil ($63; tan-luxe.com).
4. Chanel UV Essentiel Anti-Pollution Broad Spectrum S.P.F. 30 ($55; chanel.com).
5. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen Broad Spectrum S.P.F. 50 ($11; walmart.com).
6. Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen Broad Spectrum S.P.F. 40 ($32; nordstrom.com).
7. Vita Liberta Advanced Organics Invisi Foaming Tan Water ($39, ulta.com).
8. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sport Sunscreen SPF 60 ($30, laroche-posay.us).
9. Soleil Toujours Organic Set Protect Micro Mist SPF 30 ($36, soleiltoujours.com).
10. James Read BB Tan Pen ($30, revolve.com).
In case you didn’t know, broad-spectrum refers to U.V.A. blocking, and S.P.F. relates to sunscreen’s U.V.B. blocking abilities only, so both factors must be present in a sunblock. And no, layering S.P.F. 20 and S.P.F. 30 does not equal to S.P.F. 50. When laying out in the sun, a lotion that’s at least S.P.F. 30 to 50 with zinc oxide with reapplication on the hour is advised by all doctors. “Spray-on” sunblocks maybe be best to use as touch-up application.
However, doctors have the remedy when in need. From various laser treatments, such as Fraxel, Clear and Brilliant, to promote collagen growth and treat brown sun spots. There’s also V-Beam to remove the extra blood vessels and Aerolase that can improve irregular pigmentation. At home, prescriptions may include retinoids, vitamin C, and antioxidant creams. But still, treatments can get costly, so do the right thing and get made in the shade.