As we all know, there's a bit of a tan-craze sweeping the country. It seems everyone wants the deep-bronzed glow of a suntan, especially during the lead-up to the summer months when much more of our bodies tend to be on show – pasty vit-D deprived legs are not a great look on the beach! However, lying on the golden sand soaking up the rays to get that perfect airbrush tan look comes with huge health risks.
As most people are aware, the sun's rays contain harmful ultraviolet radiation that can ultimately lead to illnesses such as melanoma (skin cancer). There are two types of rays: UVA and UVB. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB rays and can reach all the way through the skin's protective layer to the dermis, where blood vessels and nerves are found. However UVB rays are also thought to be harmful, causing the skin to burn and increasing the risk of other types of skin cancer. Skin cancer affects around 50,000 people in Britain every year, even though it's relatively sun-free.
So the safest way to get that sun-bronzed glow is to opt for a fake tanning product, possibly using a spray tan method which ensures an even colour. There are no harmful rays and no risk of skin cancer (with the exception of sunbeds) – plus a perfect airbrush tan can be achieved in just a few hours! So there's no longer any need to sit like a lobster and burn on the beach. It's only recently that suntans have become fashionable and a sign of health and radiance. For centuries a suntan was undesirable, and a mark of a hard, manual labourer. Even in Elizabethan England, courtesans would paint their faces white to preserve their pale complexion. It was only during the 1940's when Coco Chanel was cruising abroad a yacht and developed a suntan that women's magazines started encouraging sun tanning, and the craze continued to develop from there. Unfortunately a clear link between sunshine and skin cancer didn't emerge until the 1990's.
What type of fake tans are available?
Many people still use sunbeds, even with the risk of skin cancer. Whereas the sun produces a mix of UVA and UVB radiation, sunbeds produce mainly UVA radiation (the type that penetrates deeper into your skin). Studies show that a sunbed can be even more dangerous than lying in the sun – it's estimated that 20 minutes on a sunbed can be equivalent to approximately four hours in the sun. Most people using sunbeds won't use suncream to protect themselves from the UV radiation either and so sunbeds are often associated with wrinkles and ageing of the skin.
To find out more about sunbeds and current laws regulating the industry, please see our sunbed safety page.
Often referred to as “tan in a bottle”, self-tanners contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) which gradually stains the dead cells in the skin's outer layer. It works by reacting with the keratin protein to produce a brown colouring on the skin. The tan will usually last a few days to a week – or until the dead cells fall off, so exfoliating will fade the tan faster.
There are many different shades of self-tans, and each brand will offer a slight variation, so it's best to try a few out to find one that's right for your particular skin tone. Self-tans are available as sprays, lotions and wipe-on towels and each will also provide a slightly different look, so again, test out what suits you best. Recently there have been some new 'moisturiser with a hint of fake tan' products available too – these give a subtle glow that grows with the more you use it. Just be sure to wash your hands after using self-tan or you'll end up with stained skin in between your fingers- and you'll just look dirty!
Spray tans at a tanning salon
Professional beauty therapists will be trained to ensure a perfectly even, streak-free tan. Many beauticians use St Tropez for it's unique formulation; it gives a natural tan and can be custom blended to the desired colour. The tan can be airbrushed on (spray tan) or rubbed all over your body. Just a few hours after the application you should notice your new sun-bronzed glow. Most salons will allow you to pay for a half-body tan or a full body tan, so if you only want certain parts of your body tanned (e.g. your legs) then this should be possible with a spray tan or by rubbing in.
Obviously having a spray tan (airbrush tan) at a beauty salon will be more expensive than a self-tan (you're paying for the beauticians skills as well as the product) but if you're scared about turning yourself orange it may be best to opt for a professional!
How much does tanning cost?
The cost of a fake tan depends on the method that you choose. If you are brave enough to try a self tan at home, then you will generally pay less (between £3 - £30 depending on the product and amount) than opting for a professional to give you a fake tan. However, unless you know what you are doing and have tested your self tan product before, you could be in for a surprise at the results, as it is very easy to end up with streaks and patches, or a strange colour match for your skin.
A professional will be well trained in colour matching for different skin tones and application methods which will ensure a streak free even tan which looks a lot more realistic.
The price of a salon spray tan is usually between £25 - £55 and can depend on whether you have exfoliation included in the treatment or not. If not, it is best to make sure that you exfoliate your skin thoroughly yourself before getting your spray tan. The price may be slightly higher for a manual fake tan application as it is likely to take longer and include exfoliation.
Tips for self-tanning and salon tanning
- If you decide to try out a fake/self-tan, use gloves (these can usually be purchased with the tanning product) to prevent your hands appearing far browner than the rest of your body
- Exfoliate before you self-tan to get a more even effect (if you opt for something like an airbrush tan at a tanning salon they will usually do this for you).
- Don't wear deodorant, makeup, jewellery or other beauty products while applying your self tan, or before visiting a tanning salon for a fake tan.
- Rub the product in quite hard (obviously don't hurt yourself!) but this usually gets rid of any large, obvious streaks, although this will depend on the product you opt for.
- Wear baggy clothes and loose shoes (flip flops are perfect) after you've been covered in your tanning product to prevent it rubbing off.
- Steer clear of water (no washing up!) until your tan has fully developed.
And Finally ...
- Always wear suncream when you have a fake tan - you will not be protected from the sun just because you have a fake tan!
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