Tanorexia & The Importance of Sun Protection

TanorexicThe recent news story about the “tanorexic” mom in New Jersey who has been accused of allowing her young daughter in a tanning booth, has once again raised awareness of the dangers of tanning beds and sun bathing not only in New Jersey and New York, but throughout the US.

While (strangely) this woman may think she looks great, what she may not realize is the amount of severe and mostly irreversible damage that she has done to her skin. Tanning beds emit both UVA and UVB rays that are both equally damaging to your skin’s health. UVA rays are the “aging” rays that penetrate deeply into the skin; these rays damage collagen, cause wrinkles, pigmentation, loss of elasticity and contribute to skin cancer and other skin disorders which resulting in individuals seeking skin rejuvenating treatments from a cosmetic surgeon. UVB rays are the “burning” rays that mostly affect the outer layers of skin and cause darkening of the skin (“tanning”) and sunburns that has been shown to increase your risk of developing skin cancer.

Tanning beds concentrate these rays so being in a tanning bed is exponentially worse for you than the same amount of time in the sun. So while any exposure to UVA and UVB rays is bad for your health, getting your tan from a tanning bed is the most dangerous. This is why many states have made it illegal for people under 18 years of age to go to a tanning salon, and other states have considered banning them altogether.

Of course the best thing to do would be avoiding tanning beds and sunbathing altogether. But for those who want to protect their skin when they are outside in the summer months, here are some important things to know about sun protection. As you will see, not all sunscreens are created equal.

Zinc Oxide is the only ingredient to provide sufficient protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Other good ingredients to look for in addition to zinc oxide that can protect your skin from UVA and UVB are titanium dioxide, oxybenzone and octinoxate. The perfect product to add to your arsenal (even if you’re not in the tanning bed) is Dr. Schulman’s Shield SPF 30. In addition to being a tinted makeup primer, it provides all the protection you need from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Another great accessory for the summer is a wide brimmed hat for the days you’ll be in the sun; the more shade the better! And of course, re-applying your sunscreen every 2-3 hours or after sweating or swimming is important to maintain the sun protection factor.

So, while the “tanorexic” mom from New Jersey may think that her golden brown hue is beautiful, she will certainly pay for it later with skin cancer, premature aging, and irregular pigmentation. Those long summer beach days from your teens and twenties will come back to haunt you in your 40s and 50s.

Avoiding the sun is the ultimate solution, but for most of us, the damage has already been done. To learn what you can do to reverse sun damage and reduce your chance of developing skin cancer, schedule your appointment with board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Schulman and his medical esthetician by calling his practice in New York City 212-289-1851.