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Entre Nous: Safe outdoor tanning
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 29 - 07 - 2015

The hot days can only mean one thing — summer is upon us. For many, this means it's time to sport a summer glow. But amid all the excitement, don't forget the importance of safe tanning. Although the desire for a sun-kissed look is something shared by many of us, teens are more vulnerable to skin cancer because the cells in their bodies are dividing and changing at a faster rate compared to adults.
Skin with a warm tan can look radiant, sexy and attractive. But at the same time, people should be careful to avoid getting sunburned and to minimise any risks associated with tanning. A lack of awareness of sun safety can put many at risk of overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, a risk factor for developing skin cancer. Also overexposure to sunlight can cause physical changes on the skin, such as wrinkles, freckles, age spots, and texture changes.
Luckily there are ways to tan outdoors safely, even if it can be more difficult than tanning indoors. Indoors, you can regulate your tanning time and know exactly how much UV light you will be getting. Outside, on the other hand, other objects and weather conditions redirect the sunlight, leaving uncertain results.
To achieve a safe sun-based tan, follow these tips for a healthy summer glow:
- The best way to tan outdoors safely is to use sunscreen. Sunscreens allow some of the sun's rays to penetrate, giving you some tanning action while shielding you from many harmful UVA and UVB rays.
- Use the right SPF number. Apply SPF 15 sunscreen 30 minutes before you go into the sun, for example, and then reapply 15 to 30 minutes after you have been exposed.
- Choose water-resistant sunscreen. Before you start sweating or swimming, wait about 15 minutes to give the sunscreen a chance to bind to your skin.
- Avoid peak hours. Do not lie out in the sun between 10am and 4pm. The sun's rays are strongest during these hours, and you're more likely to get sunburned.
- Do not overexpose your skin to UV rays. Spending a whole day at the beach may give you a tanned look for a day or two, but it may also very well leave you with sunburn when you leave. Tan in small doses: start by lying out for 15 minutes or so, and then add five minutes or so per week. Your tan will progress more gradually, but you'll avoid getting burned.
- Exfoliate before sun exposure. The act of exfoliation allows fresh skin to appear. Removing dead cells can also help even out your skin tone, remove pore-clogging dirt and oil, and prevent acne.
- Use cost-effective scrubs like sugar, oatmeal, and salt with a loofah pad or exfoliating glove. The less build-up of dead skin cells, the more shallow the layers of skin will be, making your tan last longer. The removal of dead skin will also allow you to tan more easily because your tan will appear and fade more evenly.
- To achieve an even tan, wear sunglasses. Sunglasses that are labelled “UV absorption up to 400 nm” or “meets ANSI UV requirements” mean that they block at least 99 per cent of the sun's UV rays. Opt for glasses that are large-framed and wrap-around because these protect your eyes from light from different angles.
- Wear a hat. A hat with a two- to three-inch brim can protect your ears, eyes, forehead, nose, and scalp all at once while you look stylish getting your tan. If big hats do not suit you, a shade cap or baseball cap will also do the trick.
- Finally, try to give your skin time to repair itself after a day out in the sun and before going outdoors again.

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