July 2, 2011

Summer Skin 101

True life: I am extremely pale. My fellow ivories, alabasters, porcelains and Natural No. 1s will agree when I say that we burn very easily. With the summer months ahead, not only fair-skinned sisters but also those with tan complexions are at risk for skin damage.

Regardless of whether you burn, freckle or tan, repeated exposure to UVA/UVB rays will lead to wrinkles, blotchiness or even deadly skin cancers such as melanoma. Studies have shown that this exposure, whether from the sun or a tanning bed, causes the brain to release endorphins. This is why you feel  relaxed after a tanning session. Many who tan multiple times a week thrive on this sensation, which is why many dermatologists believe tanning to be addictive.

In addition to the endorphins, another factor that may cause the desire to tan is the constant pressure from the media. So many celebrities are seen on the red carpet, bronzed and beautiful. Television shows such as “Jersey Shore” and “The Real Housewives of Orange County” constantly send the message “Tanner = Better”, and it is almost frowned upon to have a fair complexion.

It is completely understandable to want a summer glow at this time of year. To maintain a healthy, youthful appearance and still achieve your desired bronze, try these tips:

1. For day-to-day protection, use a moisturizer and lotion that has an SPF in it. Your skin will be silky smooth and protected from the sun. Fun fact: the left arm is a very common place for skin cancer because it is always exposed to the sun while driving.

2. Jergen’s or another sunless tanner is a great way to get that bronzed look without the rays! Be sure to exfoliate and moisturize the rougher areas such as elbows and knees to avoid streaks. Been there, done that.

3. A pricier option, great for special occasions: spray tans. Disclaimer for my pasty peeps: spray tans are extremely intense for the first couple of days, and after about five days, it starts to get blotchy. Here is the plus side: you will look amazing and not orange for that one special day, whether it is a date function, initiation or if you want to see what it’s like to be tan for a day.

4. Invest in an Alpha Phi hat. This way, you can protect your face from harmful rays when you are at the pool/beach and sport the sorority you love most!

5. Lastly, the most important tool for protection is a good SPF. Using a sunscreen of at least 30 or a sunblock (there is a difference) will guarantee protection. Another disclaimer: you are not guaranteed protection with just one application. Even if the bottle says “sweatproof and waterproof”, after a certain amount of time, it’s really not. Reapply every couple of hours to maintain your youth.

As women, we can often feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. There's pressure to achieve the ideal bronze beauty, but we want to remain healthy and youthful at the same time. Is it worth damaging our skin to look great now but not-so-great later? You decide.

Alison Parker is a collegiate member at James Madison University (Theta Iota).


stephaniekemler said...

Thank you SO MUCH for posting this! I would always go tanning before Spring Break or Formal every year. I thought I needed to be tan to look good for all the important spring events. Fast forward ten years, and I just had a first all over skin check with my dermatologist. Everything is fine, but I had a few scares. Now I'm slathering on the sunblock EVERY day. Always happy to see someone posting about it!

AlPal29 said...

Thank you for posting this! It's a little scary how often some of our members visit the tanning salon, even after using tanning beds received the highest carcinogen rating ... yikes!