Sunless Tanning Lotion Is A Safer Alternative

By Haywood Hunter

Sunny days create dangers that were unimaginable a few decades ago. Because the ozone layer that shields surface dwellers from solar radiation has been degraded, sunbathing has literally become hazardous, and now ranks with smoking as a known, preventable carcinogen. Those who actively avoid outdoor exposure increasingly turn to sunless tanning lotion as an alternative way to achieve a natural-looking tan without the risks.

Although efforts to ban the use of specific aerosols have been surprisingly effective in reversing ozone deterioration, unprotected sun bathing will still pose a problem for many decades, if not centuries. The use of lotions to create dark color within lighter skin cells eliminates the need for outdoor exposure, and reduces the amount of skin cell alteration caused by ultraviolet radiation.

Sunbathing without protection damages the outer layers of skin in a remarkably short time, and is known to encourage changes in cellular DNA. During exposure, the body increases production of melanin, a substance that helps absorb solar radiation while offering greater protection to new cells. Melanin is usually a dark brown or reddish color, and is responsible for the golden tones of an ideal tan.

Although it looks attractive and healthy, that darkening masks invisible damage that can manifest itself in increased and premature skin wrinkles, a general weakening of the immune system, and even melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. Sunless tanning formulas employ chemical ingredients able to produce the same effect without presenting similar dangers, even though they do not actually act as sunscreens.

When the first bronzing creams appeared during the 1960s, enthusiastic users commonly turned bright orange. Today, the formulations have been greatly improved, although a slightly orange undertone is still sometimes noticeable. In an effort to entice consumers, manufacturers have also created pills containing food coloring agents, but they have not been approved by the FDA, and some side effects are troubling.

Products proven safe for use contain DHA, or dihydroxyacetone. It is not an actual coloring agent, but a type of interactive sugar that encourages a chemical reaction with dead skin cells, resulting in darker tones. The effect lasts around one week before starting to fade, and must be consistently maintained. Some cases of eye irritation have been reported, but there is no danger of skin cancer or wrinkling.

Careless application may cause unattractive blotches or undesirable streaks. The products should not be combined with tan accelerators, which often only add to the ultraviolet damage. Outdoor activities will still require the use of sunscreens to prevent burning, no matter how dark the actual skin cells have become. Use the same levels of UV protection that proved effective prior to applying lotion.

Before using a cream or gel product exfoliate thoroughly, and then spread the substance evenly over small adjacent patches of skin. To prevent lines, wipe down elbows and knees, and allow at least ten minutes for drying. Avoid eye contact, and do not be tempted to try products in pill form containing canthaxanthin. When compared to the consequences of actual radiation, the use of lotions or creams is a far healthier alternative.

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