The custom of tanning is highly popular among western societies. Recent studies from several sources have come up with reasons to discourage the practice of tanning as it runs the risk of the person getting cancer. This is because the tanning method actively damages the DNA of the individual and causes mutations to occur in the cells of the individual. Besides this risk, tanning also leads to a blocking of the body’s natural anti- depressants and thus runs the increased risk of getting cancer. Nevertheless, the growing evidence of linkages between cancer and tanning have not led to a complete ban of tanning.
Several myths are propagated in support of the case for tanning and these myths have done much groundwork leading to the continuation of tanning under artificial conditions.
One of the common myths prevalent is the belief that tanning is healthy because it protects the body from sunburn. This is totally baseless observation by the pro tanning lobby. The myth relies on the idea that the tan is the body’s natural way of preventing UV rays from penetrating into the skin and thus reduces the risk of getting skin cancer. This is not the actual fact as the tan over a white skin acts as much of a sunscreen as an SPF4 strength sunscreen. Even to protect skin under normal conditions in the sun, one is recommended the use of an SPF 15 sunscreen strength. Thus this weak protection of tanning, equivalent only to SPF 4 strength, is too weak to help.
Also, it is necessary to know that sunburn is a long term effect and that it does not immediately surface on the skin. So the belief that if the skin feels cool immediately after a dip in the sea, it will not sunburn is again a false belief. This is a false belief considering the fact that sunburn is a continuing process and a cumulative process that ultimately surfaces as the effect of sunburn. Thus the idea that staying out in the sun for a longer time when under water is not as harmful as being on the beach for the same amount of time, is totally mythical. Sun bathing, for longer hours even with breaks in between, will not stop the sunburn from taking place as water is not an agent that can prevent the harmful effects of sunburn.
Many a time people make it a habit of staying out in the outdoors on a day that is cloudy under the belief that tanning effects will be reduced as the sun is clouded over and sunburn cannot take place. Although the radiation is partially reduced on a partially cloudy day, the cumulative effect of exposure to the sun, albeit in spasms of cloudiness, is likely to have its cumulative effect, though the radiation effects would be reduced somewhat.
For many bathers at resorts by the sea side, tanning experience is continued, propped by the myth circulated that tanning and bathing are a correct mix as water is a perfect sunblock and sunburn cannot take place if one bathes and then relaxes on the beach. This is a wrong idea because shallow water affords minimal protection from the sun’s harmful rays and some believe that it even enhances UV rays exposure.
As a way out of all these contradictions, the common myth is that tanning can be kept safe and healthy provided one covers the exposed skin with a sunscreen lotion before going out under the sun. The sunscreen protection, one must remember, is only a partial protection as it cannot be applied all over the face. The eyes cannot be covered with sunscreen and one needs to protect them differently. Sun glasses are not meant to be a protection from UV rays and thus the skin around the eyes becomes a vulnerable area during tanning.
Besides as one tends to sweat in the sun and swimming in the water tends to wear off the effect of the sunscreen lotion, the chances of exposure to the sun even while consciously tanning with an eye on safety and protection comes to light. The loss of protection despite wearing a sunscreen lotion for protection is thus not enough and the myth does nothing to counter this genuine problem.
Hence the person opting for tanning must be conscious of the hazards involved and not continue to believe in myths without checking them out thoroughly.