African-Americans and Sunburn

Over the years, a variety of skin cancer myths have permeated throughout the community. One of the most common myths is that if you are very tan it is impossible for you to burn. An even more common and possibly more dangerous – myth is that people of African descent with very dark skin cannot sun burn. This is a commonly held belief throughout the country, including within the African American community.

Unfortunately, this belief is extremely false. No matter how dark your skin is naturally, you always have the ability to sunburn, and your risk of sun damage is still the same.

Black Americans and Skin Cancer

One of the most common myths is that those with dark skin cannot get skin cancer. This cannot be further from the truth. In fact, African Americans are MORE likely to get melanoma – the most deadly form of skin cancer – than White Americans.

African Americans are at least risk for some of the lesser forms of skin cancer. Darker skin reduces the likelihood of basal cell carcinoma, for example. But these are also the least deadly forms of cancer. In terms of the most dangerous cancers, African Americans appear to be at greater risk for skin cancer deaths.

Cancer risk is exacerbated because it can be difficult to see any serious skin cancer blemishes until they have reached a late stage of skin cancer. As a result, skin cancers are not being caught in African Americans until it they have become incredibly dangerous.

Black Americans and Burning

In addition, African Americans have the ability to sunburn as well. It is widely believed that darker skin prevents burning. In some cases this is true – darker skin does reduce your likelihood of burning, and those with fair skin are likely to sunburn faster than those with dark skin.

However, it does not reduce burning risk completely. African Americans are still at a great risk for burning, especially with long term sun exposure. African Americans also burn differently. While someone with fair skin gets redder when they burn, someone with dark skin simply gets darker. This is one of the reasons that the myth persists – because African Americans do not burn with the typical “red” color that affects White Americans, it gives the appearance that Black Americans never sunburn. Yet sunburns are actually quite common, they simply appear in a different manner.

Combatting These Myths

It is very important for the African American community to combat these myths and recognize their burning and cancer risk. Men and women of all ethnic backgrounds are at risk for sun cancer and burning. Sunscreen of a moderate SPF (SPF 15 will usually suffice) should always be placed on the skin during times of extensive sun exposure, no matter what the color of your skin.

Darker skinned individuals of all races may be at less risk for burning, but burning is still a possibility, and the sun damage you receive can be equally as dangerous. Make sure that you protect yourself any time you spend an extended period of time outdoors, and check your skin regularly to make sure that you are free of any worrisome changes.

How to Tan Without Getting a Sunburn

It is a lot of fun to have a nice, dark tan. Your skin looks healthier and your body looks slimmer. Tans bring out your muscles while reducing your blemishes. Overall, they are simply a great way to make yourself look better.

But getting a tan is not the easiest process. Yes, all you need to do is go outside in the sun for a while and you are bound to get a tan eventually, but at the same time you also risk getting a severe sun burn, and a sunburn can make getting the tan essentially pointless – red, peeling skin is never sexy.

So your goal should be to get a tan without burning, because if you burn you are going to miss out on some of the aesthetic benefits of getting a tan in the first place.

Note About Tans and Burning

It is important to note that there is no surefire way to tan without burning. UV levels, skin color, time in the sun, exposure to water – all of these and more can affect whether or not you burn when you are trying to tan. Any time in the sun at all can produce burning no matter how much you try to avoid it. But there are ways to at least reduce your risk of burning while still getting the tan that you want.

Methods for Not Burning

  • Limit Sun Exposure

Unless you get a terrible burn, tans do not simply pop up overnight. There is no way to go from fair skinned to dark tan overnight without a severe sunburn in between. You need to tan gradually. Your best bet is to give yourself some brief sun exposure and then either getting out of the sun or lathering yourself in sunscreen for the rest of the day. Then, 48 hours later, go out in the sun again and add a little bit of extra time. Continue this over the entire summer and your tan will start to show and darken in no time.

  • Use Tanning Oils

Tanning oils help improve the effectiveness of your time in the sun. Use good tanning oils while still limiting your sun exposure time and your skin should be able to darken more easily.

  • Cover Up When Not Tanning

Sun tanning is not the only time that you are getting sun exposure. After you sun tan, you are still going to get sun on your face, legs and arms. Make sure you wear a lot of sun screen when not tanning. These parts of your body are going to be heated up already from your time tanning, and the extra sun exposure can cause burning.

  • Consider Sunless Tanning

If you can commit to it, you should also consider sunless tanning. These sprays and lotions are designed to give you the appearance of a tan without the sun. Because you are not receiving sun, there is no sun damage, and you will not burn while still getting a great tan.

There is no way to completely avoid your risk of burning, but if you are careful out in the sun and gradually increase your sun exposure as tans start to arise, you should be able to reduce your risk of experiencing a bad sunburn.

Dealing With Sunburn After Tanning

Everyone loves a good tan. The tanning industry receives billions of dollars annually simply from people trying to acquire dark, tan skin throughout the summer – and that does not include those that seek their tans outdoors using the free rays of the sun.

But trying to get a tan is tricky. Too little UV exposure and you are unlikely to tan much at all. Too much and you are very likely to receive a painful burn. It is the latter that happens to most people across the country, as tanners tend to push their limits and stay in the sun or tanning booth far longer than their skin allows.

Sunburns can be painful, itchy, and irritating. Sunburns can even take all of the benefits out of receiving a tan, as your skin punishes you for allowing yourself to get so sun damaged. Below are some helpful ways to soothe your skin after a serious burn and provide yourself with less overall physical discomfort.

Ways to Soothe Your Skin

  1. Take Ibuprofen

Never underestimate the power of good medicine. One of the problems with your skin after a sunburn is that you receive a great deal of skin inflammation. This causes much of the pain and itching. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory medicine, so it will help reduce much of the pain and discomfort you are experiencing from the inflammation.

  1. Moisturize Regularly

When your skin is burning, it is losing a lot of moisture. That moisture loss is going to lead to some of the skin peeling and itching. Keep your skin moisturized as best you can with a gentle moisturizer. This should reduce much of the pain and discomfort you experience from your dry skin.

  1. Be Gentle to Your Skin

It is tempting to exfoliate, scrub hard, or peel off the dry skin. All of these should be avoided. Your skin is far too fragile at this point for removing skin layers to be beneficial. The best thing you can do for your skin is leave it alone and continue to moisturize, hoping that the skin will receive enough moisture to not peel too much.

  1. Eat Skin-Healthy

It is also a good idea to eat foods and drink liquids that are beneficial to your skin. Foods and teas high in antioxidants are a good example of things that will help stimulate skin health, which will ultimately improve the life of your skin and reduce the effects of burning.

  1. Protect Your Skin

It is always a good idea to protect your skin every day after you have burned. No good can come from receiving extra sun until the sunburn has completely melted away. Protect your skin every day in order to ensure that you do not receive any further damage. Only after every aspect of the sunburn has gone, including your peeling skin, should you consider receiving any sun again.

Be Gentle

You cannot rush your skin back into good health. Allow your sunburn to subside completely, and you should experience less discomfort quickly. Only then should you go out in the sun once again.

Risks of Sun Tans

Sun tanning is the most effective way to get both a natural looking tan and one that will last for a while on your skin. The sun is able to create semi-permanent changes in your melanin levels and give you a smooth dark tan that will look both sexy and healthy over the course of the year. Tans may fade, but sun tans fade slowly, have none of the streaking problems of sunless tanners, and are considerably more fun to achieve as you get to lay back in the sun, enjoying your local weather.

But recent reports have shown that sun tanning is not the safest endeavor. There are many safety concerns associated with sun tanning that make it a risk for anyone looking to achieve that perfect tan. Here are some of the dangers of sun tanning that you put yourself through every time you go out in the sun.

Dangers of Tanning

  1. Skin Cancer

Any time you go out in the sun you put yourself at risk of skin cancer. Some skin cancers are far more dangerous than others, and there are many types of skin cancer that are almost completely curable, but there are also dangerous, fatal types of skin cancer that can occur if you are out in the sun often. Skin cancer represents a serious risk of sun tanning, and though it is not too common, it is always present in all populations (though most common in males and Caucasians).

  1. Sunburn

Any time you go tanning you run the risk of sunburn. In fact, some people sunburn on purpose because often when the burn leaves a tan is left in its wake. Yet sunburns are painful, can result in peeling, itching and sharp pains. Sunburns also increase your risk of developing skin cancer, and are simply not good for the health of your skin.

  1. Wrinkles/Aging Skin

The more sun your skin receives, the more your skin begins to show the appearance of aging. Sun damages skin cells and causes things like wrinkles and rough looking skin. It also reduces the amount of moisture that your skin is able to maintain, which can give it a hard, rougher look. Though you can reduce some of this with moisturizers, there are also going to be permanent changes for those that receive too much sun over the course of their life.

  1. Other Health Concerns

There are also other health concerns that you are at risk for when you experience excessive tanning. Too much sun has been linked to a weaker immune system, and also causes the creation of skin discolorations that, while not cancerous, do alter/impact your appearance.

Should You Not Tan?

These dangers are always present when you are tanning. Yet at the same time there is no denying that sun plays an important role in your life, and tanning with the sun is the best way to get a nice, attractive tan. As such, tanning is not necessarily a problem on its own, but make sure you take precautions to stay safe, be vigilant for any physical changes or signs of damage, and never overdo it – following best practices with tanning.

Does a sunless tan prevent sunburns?

Everyone knows that extended exposure to the sun causes sun tanning. The reason for this sun tanning is because darker skin reduces the amount of damage the sun can do to your body. In a way, the tan itself is a result of severe sun damage, and the tan is created to reduce the chances of more damage in the future.

That does not imply that having a tan means that your skin will not receive much damage. On the contrary, your skin has already been damaged, and the more sun you receive, the more damage will occur. But the amount of damage is going to be slightly less than before your tan, because the tan reduces how much damage affects your skin. It is the reason that people with natural tans are at slightly less risk for sun damage than people with lighter skin.

Still, the fact that tanning reduces how much future damage may occur is interesting. It brings up the question – if you get a spray on tan to change the color of your skin, and then you go out sun tanning, are you going to receive less damage from the sun?

Sun Damage and Spray on Tan Color

The answer is a clear and concise “no.” Remember, the tan occurs at a very base level, deep within the skin. Sunless tanners are chemicals that cause the appearance of a tan on the top of the skin. Thus deep within the skin is still as fair skinned as it always was, and will still receive harsh sun damage from being left outside.

In addition, you may not be able to notice as easily that your skin is burning, since the sunless tan will change your skin tone to make it harder to see that you are turning red. That means that in some ways you are actually more at risk for skin damage than you were before the sunless tan, because you will have a harder time noticing that you have received such serious damage.

Finally, prolonged exposure to the sun breaks up some of the chemicals used in sunless tanning agents. So the more exposure you have to the sun, the less time your spray on tan will last.

Consider Products with Sun Protection

For those that are determined to get a real tan from the sun, but are also strongly considering sunless tanner until that tan occurs, consider finding one that has its own sun protection inside of the ingredients. For sun tanning, it is believed that the best way to tan is to use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or so, allowing your skin to see a little bit of sun and then protecting it from further damage. Some sunless tanners provide you with sunscreen protection, so that your skin will stay safe, you should tan a little (though not a lot), and your sunless tan will still give you that naturally tan appearance.

Indoor Tans vs. Outdoor Tans

There are two ways to get a real tan – you can tan outdoors in the sun, or you can tan inside of a tanning booth at a salon. Each method of tanning has its benefits and weaknesses:

  • Indoor Tanning – Tanning in tanning booth allows you to control the amount of time you spend in the sun, ideally to reduce burning. It also allows you to tan during winter when it is too cold to tan outdoors. Tanning booths however can be more dangerous, especially when they are used too often.
  • Outdoor Tanning – Tanning in the sun is arguably more enjoyable. You can play sports or enjoy the water, tanning in the process. It also may not be quite as dangerous on a UV basis, in terms of how much UV exposure you receive in a similar amount of time. But outdoor tanning is also inexact, since your entire body is not subjected to UV rays at any given time. In addition, it is very easy to spend too long in the sun and get a severe burn, because there is less control while you are tanning.

Clearly there are a variety of differences between these two tanning methods. However, there are a variety of similarities as well. Below are some of the similarities between indoor and outdoor tanning.

Tanning Similarities

  1. You Can Tan

Perhaps the most apparently similarity is that both offer you the same tanning ability. Both use UV rays that allow your body to promote melanin production and change the color of your skin.

  1. You Can Burn

Of course, another similarity is that with both systems you can burn, and burn harshly. In tanning booths at tanning salons you have a far better chance of controlling your time in the machine so that burning is less likely, but just because it is less likely does not mean it is impossible. Burning is still always possible, especially if you misjudge how long you should be in the booth.

  1. Tanning Difficulty

If you have a problem tanning outdoors due to light skin, etc., you will also have the same problem tanning indoors. Similarly, if you are someone that freckles instead of tans, you are still going to freckle rather than tan in the tanning booth. The UV rays provided by tanning booths are identical to the UV rays provided by the sun.

Overall Differences

The reality is that tanning booths and the sun are both exactly the same in terms of their effects on your skin and body. The differences lie in convenience and enjoyment, as well as degree of control. Sun tanning may be more fun, as well as free, but you have less control over your tan. Tanning booths provide you with a great deal of control which can help reduce your likelihood of burning, but it costs money and has the same health risks. Overall they are both decent options for those that need a tan and which you choose is based largely on your own personal preference.

Which is Safer – Indoor or Outdoor Tanning?

Tanning can never be considered safe. Tans themselves are a result of skin damage, and as such you cannot get a tan unless you are damaging your skin. Clearly then there is no such thing as a safe tan, because a tan is the result of your skin being unsafe.

Yet there is no denying that people love to tan, and though it may be causing your skin damage, the results make you appear healthier. As a result, tanning will always continue to be a popular procedure for enhancing one’s beauty. So the next step is to figure out which method of tanning is safer, so at the very least you can reduce the amount of damage you receive to your skin. There are two ways to get a real tan on your body:

  • Tanning Outdoors in the Sun
  • Tanning Indoors in a Tanning Booth

Both of these subject your skin to UV rays, causing the damage necessary to give yourself a tan. So which one of these two options is safest?

Tanning Bed Benefits

Tanning beds offer you a variety of benefits that you do not get from the sun. The most basic benefit is control. When you are in the sun, the amount of UV rays and the time you spend tanning your body are in constant flux. You are likely moving around, there are people walking by (creating shadows), there are clouds – there is no way to measure exactly how much sun you have received.

Tanning beds give you complete control over your tan. There are no shadows, and there is no guesswork. If you set the tanning bed to 10 minutes, then you are getting UV rays all over your body for exactly 10 minutes. That control can certainly help you ensure you burn less and reduce any unnecessary sun damage.

Tanning Bed Weaknesses

However, that control also comes with a cost. The UV rays that tanning beds shower on your body are worse for your skin than the sun. Your skin receives far more damage in the 10 minutes you are in a tanning booth than it would during an equivalent 10 minutes in the sun. Similarly, while you can control your UV exposure in the tanning booth, you will still need to spend time outside, and while you are outside you are going to receive additional damage to the rays you received in the tanning bed. Unless you are constantly slathering a very high SPF on your body, there are going to be times where tanning is not in your control.

Overall Thoughts

Both tanning beds and sun tanning are dangerous. Tanning beds offer greater control, but at the risk of harsher UV exposure, while time in the sun is not as damaging, but is prone to error. The safer method is going to be the method that you believe you can control the best in order to reduce unnecessary sun exposure. If you believe that you can avoid the sun’s damage, a tanning booth might be better. If you believe that you will not overdo your sun exposure, including leaving the sun even before you have received as much as necessary, sun tanning is a better option.