Get the Skinny on Sunburns and Base Tans?

When we see tan skin, we are programmed to think healthy, right? It has taken on its own life, with its own vernacular. Think: base tan and sunburn. Many of us start the summer expecting to burn a bit and then turn that into our base tan. Some of my clients have told me that a sunburn helps to lay the foundation for a base tan.

sunburn
Photo by Marley Sutter

What’s behind all this burning and tanning? Melanin. Melanin is a dark-pigmenting protein that is produced by skin cells. It’s produced to protect us from UV damage. It is responsible for that ‘golden brown’ appearance that we think of as healthy. But, is it healthy? As an Esthetician, I have to tell you no, it is not healthy.

A sunburn is just that, a burn. It is actually a partial thickness burn. The UV radiation from the sun causes damage to our epidermis or superficial layer of skin. Following a sunburn, there will be reddening, pain and flaking. The sun has killed the top layer of our skin cells and this results in flaking and peeling. Once the skin has peeled away we have baby soft skin. This is similar to a chemical peel (think Samantha in Sex in the City).  During a chemical peel, acid-based chemicals kill the superficial layer of skin cells.

So, a sunburn is like a chemical peel for free, right? Wrong! A chemical peel kills already dead skin. But, a sunburn kills living cells. So, what we have been programmed to think of as healthy, tanned skin, is actually responsible for premature aging, wrinkles, sunspots and skin cancer. The next time you want more vibrant, healthy, summer-ready skin see your Esthetician for a spray tan and follow it up with an occasional chemical peel.

It’s okay to soak up some sun, just slather on the sunscreen so you can stay young and healthy looking.

Stay in touch,

Shelley

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