By Adam Hefner
The incidence of skin cancer has skyrocketed in recent years; it is now the most common form of cancer with which people are diagnosed. The public is becoming aware of this; those who still crave the natural, healthy appearance of a tan use products like tanning lotion, trying to tan more quickly and reduce their exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Does this decrease the risk of skin cancer?
People use tanning lotion to force their bodies' skin cells to dramatically increase production of melanin. This substance is a protein manufactured by certain skin cells that causes the skin to become darker in color. Typically, the body produces melanin when exposed to UV rays, in an attempt to protect the skin from the damaging effects of these rays.
Tanning lotions frequently contain an amino acid called tyrosine, which is a building block for the protein melanin. The increased availability of tyrosine causes the body to produce melanin more quickly. It also increases the skin's sensitivity to UV rays, however; the skin is also more susceptible to damage.
The skin becomes more sensitive because of using these products. Furthermore, sunscreen decreases the effectiveness of these products; many people avoid wearing sun block when using tanning lotion. Failing to use proper sun protection further increases a person's risk of damage resulting from UV rays.
Frequently, people perceive tanning lotion as being safer because it is designed primarily for use in tanning beds. This, however, is a myth; tanning beds double an individual's exposure to ultraviolet rays. Tanning beds expose users to even higher doses of UV rays than natural sunlight.
Many tanning products feature moisturizers and vitamins to protect the skin from damage caused by the effects of tanning. Although these can be good for the skin, this is much akin to trying to renovate a building damaged by fire. The difference is that the skin cannot be torn down and rebuilt; the damage is irreversible.
A variety of tanning lotions is available, offering darker tans, fragrance alternatives, or moisturizing options. Many of these make the skin more sensitive to UV rays. The longer these products are used, the more sensitive the skin becomes.
The truth is, tanning lotion does not protect your skin by helping you to tan faster. In fact, it can actually increase the risk of damage and skin cancer. Consider instead one of the tanning sprays available at local salons; these offer a natural tanned appearance without exposure to UV rays.