It is fairly safe to say that due to the active lifestyles we lead, we are constantly exposed to the sun. During the summer months when the heat is almost unbearable, sun tanning does not seem much like a lavish beauty ritual. In fact, sun tanning is quite common. When you have been exposed to the sun so much that your skin cells are almost damaged, skin tanning becomes an issue and makes the skin look dull. This article does not aim to shame any kind of skin complexion or promote a certain kind over the other. The main idea is to educate the readers about skin tanning, and how one may get rid of it if desired.
What is sun tanning?
Sun tanning/skin tanning or simple tanning refers to the darkening of the skin cells due to prolonged exposure to the sun rays. It is sometimes treated as a desirable process in some countries. However, prolonged exposure to the UV rays can prove to be really harmful. In some places, artificial tanning agents are used as well to add some temporary colour to the skin. This process is known as sunless tanning.
What causes skin tanning?
Our skin has cells known as melanocytes which are responsible for producing pigment for the body (melanin). Melanin plays a protective role by absorbing the ultraviolet rays of the sun. In order to prevent cell damage, melanocytes produce melanin which leads to skin darkening (melanin is either red or dark brown in colour). Thus tanning is your body’s way of taking care of the skin and preventing damage. Skin tanning can be caused by sun exposure or artificial radiation exposure.
Home remedies for removing sun tan
Suntan can be quite stubborn to remove. However, these home remedies can be very useful and effective in getting rid of sun tanning.
Why: Lemon juice has natural bleaching properties. It lightens pigmentation and can fade away scars as well.
- Simply, squeeze out the juice of half a lemon and apply this on your face.
- Leave it on for 30 minutes.
- Wash it out with cold water to see instant results.
- You can do this remedy twice a week.
- This juice may sting for a while so do not apply on open skin.
- Lemon juice can make your skin photosensitive so do not apply this right before going out in the sun.
- The preferred time of application would be nighttime.
Why: potato juice has natural lightening properties and is very effective for removing sun tan
- Grate half a potato and squeeze to get the juice out.
- Apply this on the face and leave for an hour.
- Wash away with cold water.
- You can repeat this remedy every day.
Precautions: This is a very safe remedy but could stain your clothes.
3.Aloe Vera gel
Why: this gel has cooling properties and is also anti-bacterial in nature. It promotes skin healing and soothes sunburn and suntan.
- Squirt some aloe Vera gel into the ice cube tray and leave it in the freezer to set.
- Apply one cube all over your body and leave it for it to get absorbed.
- You can do this twice a day and even after you have come from under the sun.
3.Gram flour mask
Why: gram flour is a gentle exfoliator and curd contains skin lightening properties.
- Mix a tablespoon of besan with a teaspoon of curd.
- Add a few drops of rosewater and a pinch of turmeric.
- Apply this paste on the affected area and leave it on for 15 minutes.
- Rinse off with cold water.
- You can do this remedy twice a week.
Precautions: do not add too much turmeric or it could stain the skin yellow.
4.Yoghurt and tomato face pack
Why: tomato juice can lighten the skin very effectively and also tightens the skin to banish wrinkles. Yoghurt prevents the skin from drying.
- Simply mix some plain yoghurt with some fresh tomato juice and apply this paste to your skin and wait for it to dry.
- Wash with cold water and repeat every day.
5.Sandalwood face pack
Why: sandalwood is anti-inflammatory in nature and lightens the skin.
- Mix some sandalwood powder with rose water and apply the paste to the affected areas.
- Wash away as soon as the pack dries up.
- You can repeat this remedy every day.
Why: cabbage contains cleansing agents which make it work like cleansing milk. It also protects the skin from further damage.
- Boil 5-6 cabbage leaves with 1 litre of water.
- Once boiled, allow it to cool down completely.
- Strain the liquid and store it in the fridge.
- Wash your face with this water as many times as you want.
7.Multani mitti face pack
Why: skin tanning activates your cells to produce more oil and accumulate dirt. This clay mask will close the enlarged pores and absorb excess oil whilst remove the layer of dead skin.
- Mix about a tablespoon of Multani mitti with some cold rose water and a squirt of Aloe Vera gel.
- Apply this mixture on the face and neck area and allow it to dry.
- Wash off with cold water.
8.Papaya and honey face pack
Why: papaya contains enzymes which help to promote skin lightening while honey nourishes the skin.
- Mash a few cubes of ripe papaya with 1 teaspoon of honey and apply this mixture on your face daily.
- Leave it on for 15 minutes and wash away with cold water.
9.Almond milk and wheat flour mask
Why: almond milk is extremely hydrating and the combination of it with wheat flour will remove the stubborn layer of skin tan over time.
- Take a tablespoon of wheat flour and mix it with almond milk to form a smooth paste.
- If you do not have almond milk at hand then normal cold milk will work fine too.
- Leave this paste on your face for 15 minutes or until dry.
- Repeat this remedy every day.
Risks associated with skin tanning
Since most of the times, tanning takes place naturally due to sun exposure, most of the risks associated with it are related to the skin.
Sun burn refers to the damage done to the skin due to the heat from the sun. It is a form of temporary skin damage and the symptoms can be easily detected. Its symptoms include skin redness, peeling and painful blisters along with skin darkening. Sun burns can be quite painful and need immediate medical attention. It is caused because the cell damage due to sun exposure, prompts the immune system to increase the blood flow (hence the redness) and the white blood cells try to remove the damaged cells days later (hence the skin peeling).
Premature ageing refers to the early ageing of skin cells which makes the skin look dull and the surface imperfections are highlighted even more. Premature ageing can be attributed to several factors such as poor nutrition, improper skin care and most importantly, prolonged sun exposure and continuous presence of tan. The signs of premature ageing include early appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and appearance of pigmentation in various areas of the skin (especially face and neck). Tanning is also a major cause of premature ageing.
Some amount of sun exposure will not cause skin cancer. However, if you notice that you get tanned very easily and that discolouration sets for a very long period of time, then this indicates that you are spending too much time under the sun. UV radiation is a very common cause of skin cancer. This is because these harsh radiations tend to damage the cell DNA. Permanent damage to the DNA can make the cells divide uncontrollably and result in skin cancer. People with fairer skin are slightly more susceptible to skin cancer than the ones who have more pigmented skin.
Can artificial tanning also prove to be harmful?
Dermatologists say yes. This is primarily because artificial and sunless tanning makes use of UV radiation. Hence the exposure is quite same and skin damage can happen. Overuse of sun beds can cause damage to the eyes and result in premature ageing. This method may also increase your chances of getting skin cancer as the UV radiations/ UVB rays can be quite harsh.
Myths and facts related to skin tanning
- Tanning can help you lose weight.
|There is no truth to this. Tanning only causes pigmentation.
|Their formulations are different but this does not make the sunscreens toxic.
- Tanning could help you get vitamin D
|Prolonged exposure to the sun rays will not increase the vitamin D levels at all. You can obtain the same from sources like eggs and milk.
- Tanning beds are relatively harmless
|Tanning beds use the same radiations as the sun and so the side effects are also quite similar.
- Tanning cannot cause skin cancer
|UV radiations are carcinogenic in nature and can surely result in tumours if the exposure is excessive.
Precautions to prevent skin tanning
You will have to stick to the mentioned remedies consistently if you have a suntan. So why not avoid it in the first place?
- Wear sunscreen: sunscreen contain substances to block UVA and UVB rays. These will be mostly mentioned as filters on the sunscreen bottles. However, choosing a sunscreen can be quite tricky and if you pick the wrong one, then you will get absolutely no sun protection.
- Wear protective clothing: Try to wear full sleeve shirts to protect your arms. Opt for hats and scarves to avoid sun damage. Clothes can block a major amount of sun radiation and save you unnecessary trouble.
- Carry an umbrella: Umbrellas aren’t just for when it’s raining. You can protect your face and your hair from getting hit by direct sunlight if you carry an umbrella with you.
- Have a skin-friendly diet: have a collagen-rich diet which will fasten skin repair and make it easier to remove the layer of suntan. Omega 3 fatty acids and foods rich in vitamin E act as natural internal sunscreens. Tomatoes, when consumed raw or cooked, can help to shield the skin from sun damage internally. Make sure your food has plenty of anti-oxidants.
Frequently asked questions
Here are the most commonly asked questions regarding skin tanning:
- How long does the tan last?
It will last up to 1-2 weeks depending upon the healing speed of your skin.
- What SPF (sun protection factor) should we buy?
A minimum of SPF 30 is essential for you to wear, even if the sun is not so bright. The rays are the most harmful and in full force between 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM.
- How much sunscreen should we apply?
The thumb rule as stated by most dermatologists is that you must use about 1 teaspoon for your face and neck. The same amount must be used for each of the exposed body parts.
- How often should we reapply our sunscreen?
Forget what is mentioned on the label. You must apply your sunscreen every 2 hours. If you use makeup, then make sure the facial products like your foundation and face powder have some SPF.
- What is the correct way of using it?
Ideally, you must apply your sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you step out in the sun. This allows it to settle on the skin and develop enough to protect your skin.
- Are there any medications you can take to reduce tanning?
The answer to this should be no! Medications from the doctor are only provided for severe cases of sun damage and sunburns but not suntan. Although, if you ask for it, you may get a prescription for a medicated sunscreen which will help to protect your skin. Doctors avoid giving harsh medications or ointments to prevent or remove skin tan and the best way is to use natural remedies and give your skin some time to heal.
- How long do the remedies take to work?
The remedies can show results in up to 2 weeks.
There you have it, a complete guide to skin tanning and what all you can do to help yourself. There have been many remedies mentioned but do not forget or ignore your diet. It plays a very important role in letting your skin repair itself.