Busting Myths: There’s No Such Thing As A Healthy Tan


We all know what we should and shouldn’t be doing when it comes to sun safety, but we’re still not doing it. Why? Well, who knows? But it’s probably something to do with social constructs of beauty and how we are all conditioned to believe that we look healthier with a tan. It’s also probably something to do with how we grew up - we wore sun cream because we didn’t want to get burned; we didn’t have any idea about the link between sun and skin cancer. There’s also a distinct lack of respect for sun in the UK, mostly because we don’t often get very much of it.

I love a tan as much as the next person but after years of sun beds as a teenager and in my early twenties, not to mention my addiction to oil instead of sunscreen when on holiday, the damage is clear. I can’t undo any of that, but I am determined to prevent any more damage where I can. Now I rely on a fortnightly spray tan (when funds allow) to keep me with a healthy glow and to help hide the varicose veins, the spider veins, the stretch marks, the lumps and bumps. Because the reality for me is, I’m more confident when I’m brown. Right or wrong, that’s the truth.

I’ve also paid quite serious prices for my addiction to tanning the unhealthy way. I’ve had a dysplastic mole removed (a pre-cancerous) mole and I have another one that looks like it might need to be taken off too. My dad has recently had two squamous cell carcinomas (they sounds worse than they are, but they’re not good) so never before has the importance of sun safety been such a priority.

Now though, just in case the message isn’t getting out, Nivea Sun and Cancer Research UK have come together again, just in time for summer, to make sure we all know what sun safety is. They’ve also got Harry Judd of McFly fame on board to help spread the word and between them they are preaching the 1, 2, 3, method: cover up, find shade, apply sunscreen. We do it for our kids almost religiously, but we’re still not doing it for ourselves.

So if you know you’re not the best when it comes to protecting yourself from sun damage, here are the top myth busters and tips for staying safe.

Myth: The hotter it is, the higher the chance of damage.
Truth: Heat from the sun is caused by infrared rays. Skin damage is caused by UVA and UVB rays. The UVA and UVB rays are always highest between 11am-3pm regardless of the heat. So, even though it may feel hotter at 3.30pm, you’re at less risk of getting skin damage.

Myth: There are some sunscreens that you can apply once a day for total protection,.
Truth: There is no such thing that guarantees constant protection from the sun. It’s annoying and faffy, especially when you have kids, but you’ve got to keep reapplying.

Myth: Make up and moisturisers with SPF are enough protection.
Truth: Chances are you don’t apply enough to keep you protected. It’s important to use a separate SPF.

Myth: You can tan safely.
Truth: Any colour change of the skin is an indication that skin damage is happening. Just because it might not end up developing into skin cancer doesn’t mean you haven’t damaged your skin.

Myth: You need to sunbathe for Vitamin D.
Truth: While it’s true that the sun is the main source of Vitamin D for us, you only need to be exposed for a matter of minutes. Simply going about your daily business is enough exposure to get sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. No sunbathing required.

Myth: People with dark skin don’t need to use sun protection.
Truth: Everyone is susceptible to burning. Those with darker skin do have a lower risk of developing skin cancer, but all skin is damaged by exposure to the sun. Everyone, no matter your skin colour, should wear protection.

Myth: You only need to wear SPF if it’s sunny.
Truth: Between April & September and especially between the hours of 11-3pm UVA and UVB rays are high enough to cause skin damage even if it’s not sunny or hot.

Myth: Sunscreen is water resistant.
Truth: While some sunscreen is developed to be water resistant, you can rely on it. You may not have applied it evenly so always always reapply as often as you can.

In terms of choosing a sunscreen, know this: the star rating refers to protection against UVA rays (the ones that damage lower levels of skin and are responsible for ageing) and the SPF refers to protection against UVB rays. You want at least a 15+ SPF and at least 4-5 stars to be fully protected.

So, now you know, you know. There’s no excuse. From someone who has to be incredibly careful about how I protect myself from the sun let me tell you, it’s not worth it.