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> Friday, June 1st, 2012 > Lifestyles > The birth of an ultraviolet ray
The birth of an ultraviolet ray
Victor De Jong and Lindsay Roche
Click here to read more Interrobang articles written by Victor De Jong and Lindsay Roche
Published: Friday, June 1st, 2012
“The sun is a mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace,” are the first words to a catchy children’s song you may be familiar with, and they couldn’t be truer! The sun is an enormous, selffuelling nuclear explosion. Although it’s hard to think of a gentle sunbeam originating from this toxic giant, the reactions occurring on, and deep beneath, the surface of the sun are responsible.
Overexposure to the sun and its ultraviolet rays has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer, but what is it exactly that these rays do to your skin? The concept that light can have such adverse effects seems strange when we’re exposed to light for many hours every day with no discernible side effects.
Ultraviolet rays, x-rays and visible light are all elements of solar radiation. As you move left on the spectrum, the strength of these rays increases. After visible light, we encounter UV light and beyond that, x-rays. The human eye can only see a very narrow band of the light spectrum and we call this visible light. It’s what you don’t see that can hurt you when it comes to solar radiation. The UV rays from the sun are not visible, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. UV rays cause a chemical reaction with an end result of tanning or burning. Both of these are actually evidence of damage to your skin.
Researchers at Brown University have discovered that your skin “sees” UV light inasmuch as it evokes a cellular response – within hours – as your skin tries to protect itself. Your body has a defence mechanism in the form of ‘melanin.’ After ‘seeing’ UV light, your skin will begin producing melanin, which actually absorbs the radiation of the UV rays and provides a natural sunblock. This natural protection shouldn’t be exploited, however. Although melanin protects the skin, prolonged and repeated exposure to UV light will minimize the effectiveness of your body’s defence mechanism.
The amount of UV rays you’re exposing yourself to depends primarily on when you’re outside as well as where outside. Everybody knows the standard precautions like avoiding the outdoors from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and wearing sunscreen, but your surroundings can have an impact on the sun’s intensity as well. Snow, concrete and glass buildings will all increase the intensity of the sun and create the potential for burns. So when you’re outside or planning to be outside this summer, be smart, have fun and don’t forget to put that sunscreen on!
So if you’re sufficiently scared of UV rays, you might be wondering about some alternative ways to get that bronzed god look risk-free. From lotions to beds, there are lots of ways to look like you just came off a tropical cruise without setting a foot outdoors.
Get a tan that doesn’t care if it’s summer, spring, winter or fall
If you want to have a sun-kissed glow all year round without the skin damage that comes along with a suntan, self-tanning products are your solution. Self-tanners contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a colourless sugar that tints the colour of your dead skin cells, so in a few days you will shed those skin cells and lose your tan.
Although these products darken your skin, they will not protect you from ultraviolet rays. “The DHA in these self-tanners provides very little sun protection, so you should still apply sunscreen as you normally would before exposure to the sun,” said pharmacist Dorothy Pardalis. Pardalis also reminded people to avoid products like “tanning accelerators” or “tanning pills” because they may contain tyrosine and canthaxanthin, which have not been proven to be effective, and can even be harmful.
The Canadian Dermatology Association also supports the use of self-tanning products, saying they “are safe and do not harm the skin.”
There are many different products and methods that can be used to achieve a UV-free tan. The most common methods are going to a salon to get a spray tan or using creams at home. There is also the option of combining the two to keep the tan at its best.
There are many spas in London that offer spray tanning services, including Sheer Elegance Spa (1040 Adelaide St. N.). Manager Deanna McTaggarty said that “many people are turning to this method” of sunless tanning; some clients come in on a weekly basis. Sheer Elegance Spa uses the VersaSpa self-tanning bed, and clients can choose how dark they want their tan to be. VersaSpa offers a large booth to prevent claustrophobia, as well as warm lights and a fan.
There are also products available to use in between visits to keep the salon tan at its best. For example, VersaSpray has their tanning bronzer, which comes in a spray can. It is infused with vitamin D3, caffeine and avocado oil. The company claims that this spray is ideal to keep your tan dark in between visits, and it can be applied easily, and effectively with the aerosol can. This product can be purchased at tinyurl.com/buyspraytan.
Aside from maintaining the salon tan, livesunless.com (a site that shows the location of the nearest business offering VersaSpa) has some tips on how to get the best results from your self-tanning session:
- Exfoliate: “On the night prior to, or right before applying a sunless tan, always use a non-oilbased exfoliant to properly even the skin surface. Avoid any lotions and make-up that may act as a barrier to prevent even application.”
- Moisturize: “To prolong and protect your colour, add a gradual tanning daily moisturizer to your regimen.”
- Re-apply: “When a darker colour is desired, use a sunless tanning lotion once per week.”
- Protect your nails: “Be sure to apply a petroleum-based product to cuticles and nail beds to avoid discoloration and a ruined manicure.”
- Watch out for dry patches: “Use a sunless tanning lotion sparingly around rough and dry areas such as knees, elbows and ankles as these areas tend to darken more quickly.”
- Build a tan: “Build a tan in the weeks prior to a big event. Assess colour after a few applications, then, once desired hue is achieved, maintain tone for the days leading up to the big day with follow-up sprays. This method lends itself to a less drastic, more even glow.”
- Stay smooth: “Always shave the night before rather than the day of a tanning session. Shaving closes the cells and makes it more difficult for your skin to absorb the tanning solution.”
- Protect your tan: “For maximum results, wait at least four hours before showering post-tan. When getting out of the shower, gently pat yourself dry with a light dabbing motion to help protect your tan.”
If you don’t want to spend the money in a salon, there are many at home self-tanning products to try.
Sally’s Beauty Supply sells the Tanwise line of self-tanners. This line includes a spray-on tan and a lotion. I personally went into Sally’s and the saleswoman recommended this brand, which she said does not turn you orange and does not smell bad. I was very satisfied with the lotion; the saleslady was true to her word, as the lotion actually had a very pleasant smell, unlike some brands where the smell is hard to bear. The lotion also did not make me orange, and after the first three hours the tan was quite dark compared to that skin tone I had started with. The lotion also did stain my hands, although I did wear gloves. Overall I was very satisfied with my purchase and am looking forward to using the lotion again. The sprauon tan and lotion each retail for around $12 and can be purchased at sallybeauty.com.
To get that sun-kissed look, sunless tanning is the way to go. Although it does take some practice, it will save your skin in the long run and keep it radiant for years to come. For more information on sunless tanning techniques and how-to videos, visit selftanningqueen.com.