At LoveSurf, you know we love tans. What we don’t love is sunburns. Face it—there is plenty of evidence now that even one bad sunburn can leave you at risk for skin cancer later in life—and who wants that?
Fortunately, you do not have to give up your beach life due to fears of getting burned. There are plenty of sunblocks available on the market and plenty of ways to apply them, so come on—no excuses! You never have to suffer through a sunburn again if you follow a few easy steps.
Many people like to brag that they use a low SPF because it helps them tan better but this is actually not the case. SPF has little to do with tanning and everything to do with blocking harmful rays from the sun.
To understand what SPF does, you need to understand how your skin tans or burns according to exposure to different types of rays from the sun. First, you should understand that not all of the sun’s rays are bad! In fact, life without them would cease to exist. When you tan, your skin is completing a perfectly natural protective cycle that is the result of good rays from the sun. The tan itself is not dangerous, although evidence does show that acquiring a very dark tan may age your skin prematurely.
When your skin tans, melanin, the brownish tint that appears in the skin, rises to the top. It is the job of melanin to absorb the sun’s rays and prevent damage to your skin. A tan is the sign that this process is working. However, tan should always be acquired gradually, never all at once! The best way to tan effectively is to gradually increase your exposure to the sun over a period of weeks. Start with as little as five or ten minutes of intense sun exposure and increase it by a minute or two every day. This gives your skin a chance to recover from the process of raising melanin and to secrete oils that lubricate and keep your skin from drying out.
Now, let’s turn to sunburns. A sunburn is a completely different process. It is literally a burn on your skin as if you had been too close to a fire. Sunburn indicates damaged skin. It does not “turn into” tan. It is dangerous and research indicates may lead to skin cancer.
SPF is an indication of how effective a sunblock is at blocking the sun’s harmful rays—the ones that cause sunburn. Therefore, choose the highest SPF possible and use it liberally—it will not stop you from tanning!