Whether you’re jetting off for some much-needed winter sun or soaking up the rays back in good old Blighty, safe tanning is something that even the most enthusiastic of sun-worshippers is taking on board.
While fair skins and redheads need to be uber careful, there are ways, with a little smart thinking, that we can boost our glow and get a much-needed hit of vitamin D.
Just don’t overdo it!
How to stay safe from the sun
Remember these golden rules.
Always, always ALWAYS wear protection when tanning
At least factor 15 to protect against UVB and a minimum four-star UVA protection to protect your skin as much as possible.
Stay out of the sun at peak times
In the UK, this is between 11am and 3pm, March to October.
Your skin will be more at risk of getting damaged because the sun’s rays are more intense during this window.
Increase exposure to rays gradually
Build up over a number of days to avoid your skin from getting burnt.
Eat the right food
Fruit and veg that’s naturally high in beta carotene, which can help you tan, but without burning.
Beta-carotene is widely recognised as being an excellent antioxidant that fights free radicals and reduces skin damage and oxidative stress on the skin, helping limit the harmful effects of UV light.
More on beta-carotene below.
Being out in the sun can dehydrate your body and skin, which can lead to peeling and affect how supple your skin is.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day (which you should already be doing anyway) and regularly apply a moisturiser in addition to your sunscreen.1
Don’t stick to the same spot
You may be in the comfiest position ever, but staying put in that position, when the sun’s beaming down on you, may lead to the part of your body that’s directly in the sun, getting burnt.
To avoid this, turn over or move around frequently.
Take a shade break
No matter how much of a sun worshipper you may be, being out in the sun for hours on end isn’t being kind to your skin.
Schedule in time to sit in the shade, it will give your skin a chance to recover from the intensity of the sun’s rays and help prevent you from getting burnt.
Fake your glow
It’s much kinder and safer to your skin, and with the range of self-tanning products, such as creams, mousses and mists, out there now and how much they’ve come on, it’s possible to achieve a realistic-looking tan.2
Steer clear of using tanning oils that contain zero sun protection
They essentially make you sizzle in the sun without providing your skin with any barrier against the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Keep a close eye on your skin
Regularly check it for any uncharacteristic changes.
What could be a spot of sunburn, the first sign of sun-related sun damage, can then lead to skin that becomes irritated.Over time, wrinkles will appear.
Keep an eye out for abnormal dark spots or if any moles or beauty spots change colour or shape or start to bleed.
It could potentially be a sign of melanoma. (For more insight read, ‘Concerned about a raised mole or beauty spot? Advice backed by science.’)3
Identify your prime tanning time
What do we mean by this? Basically, everybody’s skin reaches a cut-off point when their skin can’t tan anymore.
This is due to the fact it’s physically unable to produce any more melanin, the pigment that makes our skin turn darker.
If you have fair skin, the cut-off point tends to be after two to three hours, any longer and you’re just risking your skin becoming damaged.4
On top of the 11 rules we’ve listed above, try these natural ways to help protect your skin, naturally.
This antioxidant is your skin’s very own SPF-booster and is found in tomatoes and other red and orange fruit and vegetables.
Prolonged sun exposure can cause free radicals to damage cells, but phytonutrient lycopene is thought to help neutralise these, so can give your suncream a helping hand.
Lycopene is fat-soluble, so is absorbed better when eaten with healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados or seeds.
Yet another reason to gorge on a rainbow of fresh produce, but don’t forget to apply your regular sunscreen!!
Try: Slice up fresh tomatoes with ripe avocado and drizzle over an olive-oil-based dressing. Boost your suncream’s sun protection with lycopene supplements.
Found in citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes, vitamin C, alongside vitamin E, can reduce your risk of sunburn if taken over the long term.
Citrus fruits are also thought to contain free-radical fighting nutrients, so can help protect cells from damage.
Rather than hitting the juice carton with its high sugar content, go for the whole fruit, as it contains fibre, which helps the body absorb the fructose more slowly into the bloodstream.
Try: Protect your skin from the sun naturally by adding grapefruit or orange segments to muesli or natural yoghurt, and boost with a vitamin C supplement.
A healthy diet of beta-carotene-rich foods, such as carrots, tomatoes, red peppers, sweet potatoes, mango, melon and apricot, increases your levels of vitamin A.
Beta-carotene helps maintain normal skin and has been linked to increased sun protection. Just one apricot contains almost 15 per cent of your daily vitamin A requirements.
You could also take a daily beta-carotene supplement.
Try: Whipping up a skin-friendly melon and mango breakfast smoothie or including a beta-carotene supplement in your diet.
This amazing oil is not just perfect for healthy cooking and salad dressings – research has found that it may work as a topical aftersun too.
Olive oil is rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin E, which may help neutralise the destructive free radicals triggered by exposure to the sun’s UV rays.
Try: It won’t work as sunscreen, so don’t neglect your essential SPF, but slather on a lotion containing olive oil to give your skin a boost at the end of your day.
Is there anything this wonder cuppa can’t do?
Not only is it thought to boost heart and brain health and stabilise blood sugar, but it can also help guard against skin damage when tanning too.
Green tea contains catechins, which help protect against sunburn inflammation and UV damage.
The tannins can also calm sunburn pains, and it has antioxidants to fight damage caused by UV light.
Some studies show just two cups a day of this wonder leaf could deliver extra sun protection.
Try: Keep some cool used green tea bags in the fridge to soothe sunburnt skin or try a green tea extract supplement.
We all know we are supposed to avoid sunburn at all costs, but sometimes you miss that bit at the side of your cossie or our partner misses a spot on your back (Sacked! Immediately!).
That’s where aloe vera steps in – there’s nothing quite like it for soothing hot, angry skin.
Studies show it needs to be used at 100 per cent strength to fully harness its soothing properties, and aloe’s natural vitamins and minerals make it a unique moisturiser and skin healer.
Aloe vera’s gel contains glycoproteins that relieve redness and reduce sensitivity, as well as polysaccharides that may help damaged skin cells and trigger new ones to form.
This highly nutritious nut has already been tagged as a good source of omega-3 fats, and now research has shown that walnuts have skin-protecting talents too.
They help the cells in the skin’s outer layer to fight UV radiation by preventing cell breakdown, otherwise known as apoptosis.
Snack on naked walnuts before sunbathing or blend them into your summer smoothies to help boost protection alongside using sunscreen.
Try: Toss a handful of walnuts over a fresh green salad.
- Lycopene can help neutralise free radicals that cause skin damage
- Beta-carotene helps maintain normal skin and has been linked to increased sun protection
- Green tea protects against sunburn inflammation and UV damage
Is tanning safe?
Tanning isn’t healthy or safe for your skin.5
Sun damage is cumulative—even ten minutes of exposure a day over the course of a lifetime is enough to cause problems and majorly age your skin.6
When you get a suntan, you may love the healthy glow it gives you.
But this glow is caused by an increase in skin pigment, called melanin, which changes the colour of your skin. And when your skin colour changes, it’s a sign of irreparable DNA skin damage.
As much as people may love the way tanned skin looks, it damages your skin cells and speeds up visible signs of aging, e.g. fine lines and wrinkles.
More importantly, it can lead to skin cancer – it increases your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
- Tanning isn’t healthy or safe for skin
- 10 minutes of exposure a day over the course of a lifetime is enough to cause major problems and really age skin
- When your skin colour changes, it’s a sign of irreparable DNA skin damage
A final few words about tanning quickly…
There’s nothing quite like being out in the sun to lift our spirits and turn pasty skin into sun-kissed skin that instantly makes people look and feel healthier.
But while we may think it makes us look ‘healthier’, the real truth of the matter is that tanning is actually a sign of skin damage that can lead to premature skin ageing and possibly skin cancer, as well as other health issues.
Being out in the sun is something we should still continue to do, but it’s essential you do it safely, especially if you’re doing it just to get a tan.
It’s essential you take care of your skin as much as possible.
This involves wearing a suncream that’s of the right strength and is designed to provide the right type of protection, at the very least.
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Last updated: 1 February 2022