Your risk of getting skin cancer from tanning is decreased if your skin is light brown, moderately brown, dark brown or black, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. However, skin cancer is a possibility for anyone who intentionally seeks out the sun, regardless of skin tone. Exposure to the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays also causes premature photoaging, even in people with dark skin; photoaging causes fine lines, deep wrinkles and leathery skin. If you have a naturally dark complexion, take thorough measures to protect yourself from the sun to prevent your skin from tanning.
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Take a close look at your sunscreen's label. It should offer you protection against ultraviolet B rays -- the rays that cause skin to burn -- and ultraviolet A rays, the rays that make your skin tan. The AAD recommends that you choose a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher.
Boost your UV protection. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration adopted new labeling requirements on June 28, 2012 that tell consumers how efficient their sunscreen is at blocking UVA rays. Under the new FDA regulations, products that protect against UVA and UVB skin damage will be labeled "SPF 15" (or higher) or "Broad Spectrum" on the front of the sunscreen packaging. To protect your skin, choose products with a minimum SPF rating of 30 and a maximum SPF rating of 50.
Apply sunscreen correctly. Liberally apply the product to all areas of sun exposed to the skin at least 30 minutes before you go outdoors, rain or shine. UV rays can creep through cloud cover on overcast days. Make sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours, says the AAD, or anytime after you sweat profusely, get out of the water and/or towel off.
Stay inside or seek shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays peak. If you're not sure of the time, take a look at your shadow; if it's shorter than you are, the sun is at its strongest, says the National Cancer Society.
Cover up. The NCS advises using protective clothing to further protect your skin whenever you go outside. Look for tightly-woven fabrics that are comfortable to wear. Add a wide-brimmed had that offers full shade to your face and sunglasses with at least 99 percent UV protection, and you're good to go.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- American Cancer Society: Skin Cancer Facts
- American Academy of Dermatology: Facts About Sunscreen Ingredients
- Department of Louisiana Health and Hospitals: American Academy of Dermatology: Darker Side of Tanning
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: The Risks of Tanning
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: FDA Sheds Light on Sunscreens