We all know how bad the sun and tanning beds are for you, so why does most of America still tan? There are a few reasons. One, it simply feels good, it’s warm and relaxing and your usually laying out at a beach or by a pool which makes it even more intriguing. Another reason is that we are perceived as more attractive when we have a nice “sun kissed glow”, but what is your tan really doing to your skin? Within the skin’s epidermal (outer) layer are cells that contain the pigment melanin. Melanin protects skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which can burn the skin, and over time, will reduce its elasticity and cause a person to age prematurely. So getting a “tan” is actually our body’s way of protecting itself from the danger of the sun. The ability to tan is an adaptive response to the stress of your skin being exposed to more sunlight than it can handle. It is your skin’s way of protecting itself against UV that can damage the genetic material (DNA) in skin cells, potentially triggering a skin cancer. According to skincancer.org no matter what you may hear at tanning salons, the cumulative damage caused by UV radiation can lead to premature skin aging (wrinkles, lax skin, brown spots, and more), as well as skin cancer. In fact, people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent. As a teenager I worked in a tanning salon and although I knew that the tanning bed was dangerous then, at 16 you feel invincible. Unfortunately I cannot turn back time, however I try to make up for it every day. SPF 365/year on my face, neck, chest and hands and you won’t catch me without my hat and the spf it all over my body in the summertime. If I am going to be out in the sun I make sure to reapply my Zinc based spf (zinc is best for the skin, I will write another blog explaining why) every 2/3 hours. UV protective clothing also helps, especially in the summer time. Sun damage is chronic and can take years and a lot of money to treat its aging effects, however prevention is key.