Tanning and burning are caused by ultraviolet rays from the sun. These rays cannot be seen or felt, but penetrate the skin and stimulate cells containing a brownish pigment called melanin. Melanin protects the skin by absorbing and scattering ultraviolet rays. People with dark skins have high amounts of melanin, have greater natural protection from ultraviolet rays, and tan more easily. Blondes, redheads, and people with fair skins have less melanin and will burn more quickly.
As melanin is stimulated by ultraviolet rays, it rises to the skin's surface as a tan and provides protection against future sun exposure. Individuals with dark skins such as olive, brown, or black are not immune to burning and skin damage caused by careless exposure to the sun.
Two types of ultraviolet rays (UV) from the sun exist: UVA and UVB. UVB cause burning of the skin or the red associated with sunburn, skin cancer, and premature aging of skin. UVA rays stimulate tanning but are also linked to other problems such as impaired vision, skin rashes, and allergic or other reactions to drugs.
Skin damage from overexposure to the sun is cumulative over the years and cannot be reversed. Once the damage occurs, it cannot be undone. Most serious and lasting damage occurs before age 18. Protection should start early, particularly with children who enjoy outdoor play on sunny days.
Sun screens and sun blocks are suntan lotions that contain one or more protective chemicals that absorb and scatter ultraviolet rays. These have a numerical rating system to indicate the specific amount of protection. The numbers, known as Sun Protection Factors (SPF), are listed on the product label. The higher the SPF number, the greater the protection. Sun screen products, properly selected and used, allow the wearer to extend time in the sun without burning. Only opaque products, such as those containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide totally block out ultraviolet rays. Often sun blocks are packaged or promoted especially for protection of lips, nose, and ears.
Pigment lotions, artificial tanners, and temporary stains such as bronzes contain chemicals that react with the outer skin layer and color the skin but do not provide protection, unless they also contain a sun screen.
Select a sun screen or sun block product according to the SPF rating to achieve optimum protection for your needs. SPF is a numerical rating system to indicate the degree of protection provided by a sun care product. It is based on a multiple of the time required by the sun to produce a given effect (redness) on an individual's skin without protection. For example, if your skin would normally burn in 20 minutes with no protection, using a sun screen product with an SPF of 6 means you could spend an additional 120 minutes (or 2 hours) in the sun without burning.
UV light and relaxation
Rather then going to tanning salons to get that bronze complexion, researchers have found that tanners might be going for the relaxing effects produced by the ultraviolet light (UV) given off by tanning beds. Researchers said that these pleasurable feelings derived from the UV light might explain the repeat behavior of tanning bed visitors.
In this study, the participants who used the tanning beds with the UV light reported they felt more relaxed and at ease than those who weren't exposed to the UV light. When presented with the option of extended tanning bed visits, 12 out of 14 of the participants opted to continue their sessions and chose the bed with the UV light for 95 percent of their sessions. [Eurek Alert July 6, 2004]
EWG’s Sunscreen Guide to 1,400 sunscreens, sunblocks, lip balms and moisturizers tells you what you need to know to find safe and effective sunscreens. EWG's exclusive scientific analysis helps you avoid red-flag ingredients like vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) and oxybenzone. EWG gives you straight talk about SPF.
It is recommended that you avoid any sunscreen containing the following:
PABA and PABA esters (ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB, glyceryl PABA, p-aminobenzoic acid, padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA)
Cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate)
Benzophenones (dixoybenzone, oxybenzone)
Salicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl salicylate)
Avobenzone [butyl-methyoxydibenzoylmethane; Parsol 1789] (In European Sunscreens)
An economical, effective and safe product is Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Sensitive - SPF 30+ or Blue Lizard
Australian Sunscreen Baby, SPF 30+. These have a rating score of 2 from EWG. Two or less is considered an acceptable score and given the color green. These contain nano-sized particles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Blue Lizard Australian Suncream, Regular or Sport (SPF 30+) contain oxybenzone, so should be avoided. However, these are waterproof, while the former two are not.
Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two of a number of ingredients with proven ability to protect skin from damage due to ultraviolet radiation. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are particularly valuable because of their ability to filter UVA as well as UVB light, giving broad protection from damaging sunlight.
Historically, when used in sunscreens, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are visible, giving the skin a white colour. This effect can be reduced when these chemicals are used in nanoparticle form, where they cannot be seen on the skin but still retain the sun-screening properties of the coarser material.
Recently, there have been questions raised about the safety of sunscreens that contain nanoparticles. Concerns relate to the theoretical possibility that if nanoparticles were to be absorbed into skin cells, they could possibly interact with sunlight to increase the risk of damage to these cells. In early 2009, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) conducted an updated review of the scientific literature in relation to the use of nanoparticulate zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreens.
The TGA review concluded that the potential for titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens to cause adverse effects depends primarily upon the ability of the nanoparticles to reach viable skin cells. To date, the current weight of evidence suggests that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles do not reach viable skin cells; rather, they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer layer of the skin that is composed of non-viable cells.
It is possible to make your own sunscreen using oil, beeswax and zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Instructions are available on the Internet.