The 11th Commandment – Thou shalt not tan.

Snooki must be going to hell.

With Spring arriving the age old question arises. To tan or not to tan? Considering all of the evidence out there that says just how badly tanning is, its amazing that people still choose to use tanning beds and spend hours outside laying in the sun unprotected. There are so many misconceptions floating around in relation to sun exposure and tanning that most people are doing serious damage to their skin while thinking their habits are perfectly safe. It’s time to debunk some of the most common tanning myths out there.

Myth: “You do not need to wear sunscreen when it is cloudy.”

Fact:Just because its cloudy doesn’t mean that the sun isn’t going to touch your skin, it just means that the amount of ultraviolet light reaching the earth is slightly reduced. Slightly. Just because the sun is hiding behind the clouds doesn’t mean that you should lay out for a longer period, it means go put on some sunscreen and be safe. You should never be outside without sunscreen on, sunny or not.

Myth:  “You need to spend time in the sun or in a tanning bed to get enough Vitamin D.”

Fact: As many of the tanning bed commercials will tell you, tanning stimulates the production of Vitamin D, which is of course good for you. There are other sources of Vitamin D though, that are much safer than sun exposure. Haven’t you heard the term “you are what you eat,” well, its true. All you need to do is eat more foods that are rich in Vitamin D, some of those yummy options are: cheese, yogurt, fish, and breakfast cereals. Don’t forget about milk, one cup of milk provides 25% of your daily required Vitamin D.

Myth:  “Clothing protects skin from sun exposure.”

Fact:Generally, yes, your clothing will protect you from the sun. All of that depends on the type of clothing, how its made, and what the fabric is. Jeans for example are usually going to be enough to keep you protected, a white cotton tee though? No way. A good rule of thumb to follow is if you can hold the clothing up to a light and see the light through it, its not protecting you. Try it. You might be surprised. If you are going to be outside for an extended amount of time you need to have a sunscreen under your clothes, a minimum of 30 would be best.

Myth: If  you’re under a beach umbrella, you are protected from the sun.

Fact:  While using an umbrella on the beach is a great way to help prevent sun damage, its not going to be enough to keep you protected all day. the suns rays are reflected off of light surfaces like sand, water and concrete and can still find you in the shade. Do you still wear sunglasses when you are under an umbrella? Chances are you do, just like your eyes need more protection, so does your skin. Umbrellas are always a good idea, but it shouldn’t be the only thing that you are relying on for protection.

Myth: A “base tan” will protect you from sun damage and prevent sunburn.

Fact: Getting a tan gives you an increased amount of melanin, thats what turns your skin brown. This increase does give you a higher resistance in the sun, but it will not protect you. The skin has a natural SPF of about 2, the increase in melanin raises the SPF to 4, which isn’t going to do much for you. However that is only the case if you get a natural tan, going into a tanning bed to get this tan will actually increase your chances of damaging your skin.

Myth: Tanning can clear up acne.

Fact:  Tanning does dry out your skin and could help to dry out acne as well, but it will not solve the entire problem, it will give you dry skin, which is counterproductive. When the skin is dried up that way it makes the skin produce more oil, which can lead to even more acne. Either way, tanning damages skin and causes even more problems in the long run. Does it still seem like its worth it?

Myth: You do not have to worry about sun exposure in the winter.

Fact: Even if it is cold, when you are outside your skin is exposed to UV rays from the sun, just like it is on a cloudy day.Imagine you’re vacationing in Aspen, you’re way up on the mountains, where the rays are even higher due to the elevation. You are going to burn, more so than you would on a regular sunny day.

It might seem like its worth it now when you are young and beautiful to have a tan, but think about what you are going to look like at 30; after years of accumulating sun damage the dark spots and premature wrinkles are going to start to appear. Many people that have previously spent a lot of time soaking up UV rays, either inside or out, sometimes make the mistake of thinking that the damage to their skin is already done.  However, the effects of UV light are cumulative.  Not correcting your bad tanning habits only leads to an increased amount of damage in the future. Sun exposure is the main cause of wrinkles and dark spots, the cards are already stacked against you in the aging process, why make it worse?

THE BOTTOM LINE. WEAR SUNSCREEN, DAILY.

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