Balancing Beauty and Health: Navigating the Effects of UV Light with Responsible Tanning Practices

Balancing Beauty and Health: Navigating the Effects of UV Light with Responsible Tanning Practices

Thousands yearn after that beautiful tan which suggests healthy living and well being.   The main aim of this document is to present an insight into the effects of ultraviolet light (UV) on the human skin in order that you can make a more informed decision about the use of indoor solariums or sunbeds and to be able to advise users of the safe use of indoor tanning apparatus to limit the dangers associated with exposure to UV radiation.  

Before considering the effects of UV radiation on your skin it must be noted that there is no such thing as safe exposure to UV radiation – there is only responsible exposure to UV that can limit the harmful effects to your skin while at the same time giving you the cosmetic and medical advantages that have been scientifically documented.   These include Vitamin D production, vital for bone health, fighting auto immune deficiencies, feedstock for the hormone that protects muscle, and, oddly enough, the nutrient that helps in fighting diabetes and cancer.   It has been established that UV deficiency is not good, but that excessive UV exposure is not good either.

By way of an analogy to illustrate the point more clearly, let us consider our day-to-day use of a motorcar.   We benefit from the use of motorcars everyday to get us about our business more efficiently and while motor car marketers would have us believe that the use of their product will shield us from harm, the reality is that we can be involved in any number of circumstances that would bring into question the premise that no harm can come to you in a motor car.   We do however take certain precautions to limit such circumstances like driving within the speed limit, wearing seatbelts, observing road signs, etc.   The point serves to illustrate the relationship between the concepts of safety and responsibility – a blind acceptance of the former without the willingness to apply the latter negates such safety.

Before dealing with the responsible usage of sunbeds, we need to have an intelligent and clear understanding, while avoiding excessively complicated science, what UV is and how our skin responds to it.

The sun emits electromagnetic radiation.   The visible portion of this radiation is effectively what we see as daylight.   The non-visible portion includes, amongst others, infrared and UV light.   UV light is then broken down into UV A, B and C.   UV C does not reach the earth’s surface as it is absorbed by the ozone layer and particles in our atmosphere.   UV A and B reach the earth’s surface and the amount of UV B as a percentage of total UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface ranges from 6 to 12% dependant on numerous factors such as elevation, humidity, pollution, etc. 

A substance called melanin is formed in the skin under the influence of UV B.   This melanin moves to cells on the surface of the skin and there turns into pigment.   UV A acts more directly in that the darkening of the skin is caused by oxidation of the pigment.   UV A brings about this oxidation.   The indirect tanning properties of UV B start slower but the overall time to get a deep tan is shorter with UV B than with UV A.   The disadvantage is that with UV B, the skin goes through a process of reddening that we all know as sunburn.

It can be seen therefore, that one can get a quicker deeper tan with just the use of UV B, but the sunburn associated with this would make it the irresponsible way to tan.   One can also see that a combination of UV A and B is required in order to get the benefits of both direct and indirect tanning.   Herein lies the first major advantage with the UV generated in sunbed tubes.   You will remember that earlier I noted that the percentage UV B of the total UV radiation reaching our surface is between 6 and 12% dependant on numerous factors which we are unable to control when we are out in the direct sunlight.  While there are UV tubes that emit a significantly higher percentage of UV B for use in other applications, generally UV tubes found on sunbeds emit a UV B percentage of between 0.7 and 3.4% dependant on the tube specification.   Immediately one can see that the sunbed allows for a much more controlled emission of UV B, the radiation more responsible for sunburn.

The second major advantage with indoor tanning is that the exposure times are controlled.   How many times have you been sunburnt simply because you were enjoying time by the pool or at the beach and with little cognisance for your exposure time to the sun?   By the time you have developed sunburn, it is too late, and the damage has been done.   With the countdown timer that should be installed on every sunbed, you can not only plan how long you should be exposed based on skin type, previous exposure, etc. but you can be assured that the unit will switch off once the set time has elapsed – responsible exposure to UV radiation!

To come full circle to the analogy regarding motor cars – do you want to drive a motor vehicle in order to get from place to place?   If so, are you going to take the responsible measures like sticking to the speed limit, to maximise your chances of getting to your destination without incident?   By the same token if you want to get a tan, are you going to do it in the direct sunlight or take the controlled option of a sunbed?   

New Revolutionary Rubino Tanning Bed

Tanning beds now also have the option of being supplied with Rubino tubes rather than the traditional UV tubes. The Rubino bed has the perfectly balanced spectrum of effects of UV and red light for a smoother skin and a beautiful tan. The Rubino tube has a lower UV B output which means a slower and smoother tanning process which means a safer tan. This combined with the red light, results in many additional benefits:

  • Significantly improved direct pigmentation
  • Smoother tanning process
  • Longer lasting tan
  • Protection of cells against free radicals
  • Activation of oxygen supply to the skin
  • Stimulation of skin metabolism
  • Smooth and refreshing skin feel
  • High feel good factor

As part of a regimen of responsible sunbed tanning the following guidelines should be adhered to:

  • Determine your skin type (i.e. fair, dark or in between) as this determines the amount of time per session you should spend on a sunbed. 
  • Only use a sunbed once per day and do not couple it with exposure to direct sunlight.   Allow 48 hours between 1st and 2nd exposure. 
  • Certain medicines and foodstuffs such as antibiotics, saccharin, diuretics, perfumes, tranquillisers, etc. can cause hypersensitive reactions when exposed to UV A radiation.   Do not use a sunbed if you are taking any such medication. 
  • Avoid wearing cosmetics, especially anti wrinkle creams containing AHA, during your sunbed session 
  • Ensure that you were UV goggles at all times.   It is NOT sufficient to just close your eyes as UV radiation can penetrate the eyelids and is harmful to the eye. 
  • If you become too warm during a session – Stop! 
  • If your skin turns red during a session, stop immediately, and reduce the exposure time on your next session.   Only go for your next session after the redness has completely disappeared. 
  • Exercise patience – tanning is not like putting on a jacket.   In needs to be achieved gradually over a number of sessions.   
  • After a program of sessions, say 10 –12, wait until you start the next program to allow the skin some recovery time. 
  • Always treat the skin with a cream containing moisture, fats and collagen. 
  • Gradually get used to using a sunbed 
  • If you have a history of skin ailments or a family history of skin cancer, exposure to any form of UV radiation is dangerous. 
  • Do not use a sunbed more than 50 times a year. 
  • Do not use a sunbed while pregnant – your skin is already being challenged! 
  • Children must not use sunbeds 
  • Follow the manufacturers recommendations on the use of the sunbed. 

The sunbeds supplied into the South African market by Suntan Systems have the following safety features:

  • All sunbeds sold by Suntan and Collagen Systems have been tested to comply with IEC standards of safety and have been approved for supply to the South African market by the NRCS.
  • All beds have countdown timers appropriate to the particular bed. 
  • All beds are supplied with a poster that helps you to determine your skin type and lists safety aspects and tips. 
  • All beds are supplied with a free starter pack that includes a collagen based moisturising cream. 
  • Suntan Systems does not endorse the use of UV tubes with a UV B output of greater than 3.4%. 
  • Beds supplied with Rubino tubes have a UV B output of a maximum of 1.7%.

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