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At all costs, this isn't a drill! Sunbeds are no safer than the sun, with some even giving out greater doses of UV rays than midday tropical sun. Sunbeds can even be more harmful than sun exposure depending on different factors, such as the strength of the UV rays used, the length of sessions, your skin type, and your age. Continued use of sunbeds can even increase your risk of skin cancer later in life.1
If you take care of your skin, it'll take care of you. There's so much our skin already does for us - it protects us from harmful things in the outside world, prevents dehydration, helps regulate our body temperature2 – that it's only fair we make sure it's well cared for, especially in summer when there's higher risk of damage.
Exfoliating the night before helps you to achieve the best possible tan, as it removes the dead cells from the uppermost layer of skin, so making your skin tone more even and unclogging your pores. This allows for a long-lasting, even tan.
Keeping your skin moisturised and hydrated – both before and after you tan – will help you tan better and faster than having dry and ashy skin. This is as simple as moisturising the night before you plan to sunbathe, as well as putting on after-sun or a hydrating cream once you've been exposed to the sun.
Not only should you opt for a high SPF sun cream, whether you choose SPF30 or SPF50; you should also always look for the term 'broad spectrum' or the UVA logo with the word 'high' or 4/5 stars, as well as making sure you reapply every couple of hours for maximum protection.
Apply sun cream 30 minutes before going out, and regularly top up every couple of hours whilst out in the sun, especially if you go swimming and wash off any protection that's on your skin (even if it says it's water resistant).3
Your skin has its own nutritional needs and if your diet is poor then it can be reflected on to your skin condition. Rob Hobson, Healthspan Head of Nutrition says, "You are what you eat and the foods you choose to include in your diet can have both a nourishing and protective effect on your skin. Nutrients that act as antioxidants are particularly important as they help to protect the skin from the damage caused by excess free radicals that can build up when exposed to environmental conditions, such as too much sun."
Certain nutrients and phytochemicals like lycopene (found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon), vitamin E (found in wheatgerm, avocado, nuts and seeds) and selenium (found in Brazil nuts) can help protect the skin against sun damage by contributing to the protection of cells from oxidative stress. However, if you struggle to get all the right nutrients into your diet, you can always try a tan and defend supplement.
Overexposing your skin to the sun can leave you with sunburn, while it's generally short lived it can increase your risk of developing skin problems later in life. The best way to avoid burning, aside from keeping topped up on sun cream, is being safe in the sun; the NHS recommends3 switching to shade between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest.
If you feel like you've had too much sun, actively move into the shade; putting your health before your golden skin is the most important thing of all.
Rob Hobson MSc RNutr is a Registered Nutritionist who has worked with some of the UK’s largest food and health companies and performs training in the public health sector (including government agencies and the NHS). Rob contributes regularly to UK press publications and has a monthly column in Women's Health magazine.
Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible, supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.