Tanning has always managed to stir up some controversy regarding the safety issues related to it. There are two basic ways to change your skin color. There’s prolonged exposure to UV light or there’s the use of some sort of chemical agent. The absolute safest thing to do is to keep in the shade and stay to your natural color. Since many people turn a blind eye to potential downsides we’ll take a look at some of the health issues.
UV comes in three flavors; A, B and C. We use UV-C to sterilize equipment or kill bugs and mites and is the most dangerous. UV-C doesn’t pass through the atmosphere so isn’t a problem for sunbathers and isn’t produced in significant amounts by tanning beds. The majority of UV-B from sunlight is also filtered out by the atmosphere but the bit that gets through causes burning and can lead to premature aging and skin cancer.
Most of the UV-A passes through the atmosphere and is favored by the tanning bed industry because it was believed to be safe. They even claimed it to be beneficial due to Vitamin D production but most people get enough Vitamin D from their diet without having to resort to sunbeds. UV-A has been found to also contribute to all the negative effects that UV-B does. A high factor broad spectrum sunscreen is an essential if you choose a natural rather than chemical tan.
This is one of the few cases where “chemical” is safer than “natural”, especially in public perception. While the health effects are not explored in full and they are unlikely to be risk-free the comparable consequences to UV are accepted to be favorable in general. You can take your fake tan in oral capsule form or apply it direct to the skin.
Eating an excessive amount of tomatoes or carrots can produce a coloration to pale skin. Problem is that the resultant color is yellow or orange not the golden bronze look that is desirable. Other chemicals have been added to try and temper the end result, some of which, reportedly, have been used without the approval of the FDA but for this reason and that the color achieved is rarely a natural one we recommend the sort of tan you spray or smear on.
Pretty much all these products contain the same active ingredient called dihydroxyacetone. The discovery of the skin darkening properties of this chemical was more than a century ago. Early incarnations resulted in noticeable patches and streaks due to the method of application. The advent and proliferation of spray booths and other technological advances have led to dramatic improvements. Areas around the mouth, nose, and eyes should be clear and inhaling the vapor avoided but otherwise it remains the best option.
The risks you take from sitting out in the Sun are well established. Sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer. So if you must go a shade darker get the bottle out or go to the spray booth.