Suntan myths and how they can affect your health.


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Experts say you should use sunscreen every time you expose yourself to the sun. BARTON/Getty Images
  • Most people believe sunscreen is healthy, according to a new survey.
  • Tanning is the body’s response to sun-induced DNA damage, experts say.
  • They say that excessive exposure to the sun can cause skin damage and skin cancer.
  • They recommend wearing sunscreen and protective clothing, including a hat, when outdoors.

Most Europeans – and people around the world – believe that sunlight is attractive and healthy.

The former may be controversial, but dermatologists say the latter is dead wrong.

Results of survey by 31st European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology Congress This week, 8 in 10 Europeans say tanning is attractive and 73 percent consider the sun “healthy”.

Both beliefs were common outside of Europe, including North and South America, Africa, Oceania, and Asia. The survey of 17,000 people worldwide found that 67 percent of non-Europeans find tanned skin attractive and 59 percent believe that sunlight is healthy.

however, Dr. Thomas WangTanning is the body’s immune response to DNA damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays, Presbyterian Melanoma and Complex Skin Cancer Program, director of dermatological oncology for Hoag Memorial Hospital in California, told Healthline.

“When you get tan, there is a signal that DNA damage has already occurred,” he said.

A survey conducted by La Roche-Posay Laboratoires and Ipsos found, somewhat paradoxically, that 92 percent of Europeans and 86 percent of non-Europeans know that sun exposure ages them.

“If you’re not worried about skin cancer, remember that exposure to the sun will make you age faster,” Wang said.

“Approximately 90 percent of skin aging is caused by sun exposure.” Dr. Angela Caseya dermatologist at Ohio Surgical Dermatology and Dermatology Associates Center and founder of Bright Girl Youth Skin Care, told Healthline. “Applying sunscreen every day will help protect your skin from sun damage. Just like regular exercise and a healthy diet, using sunscreen every day will help keep your skin healthy and strong.”

Most people, including 84 percent of Europeans and 79 percent of Europeans, say they don’t protect themselves from the sun all year round.

In fact, researchers found that only 10 percent of Europeans and 14 percent of non-Europeans use sunscreen, wear hats and protective clothing, and try to stay in the shade year-round to avoid sun exposure.

Casey pointed out that not only can the sun damage the skin at any time of the year, but even UV rays reflected from water, snow and other bright surfaces can be harmful.

Other common misconceptions mentioned in the survey were that a suntan prevents sunburn – thereby avoiding the use of sunscreen – and that sunscreen is not needed when the weather is hot.

“The extra melanin in tanned skin can give an SPF of 2 to 4, which is slightly better than SPF,” Casey said. “However, an SPF of 2 to 4 is far from sufficient sun protection, and the skin can burn easily after brief exposure to sunlight.”

“This study shows how deeply entrenched the ‘healthy’ sun myth is – even in people who have had sun damage or skin cancer,” lead researchers. Dr. Thierry PasseronThe study’s lead researcher and professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology at the Université Cote d’Azur in Nice, France, said in a press release.

“The belief that suntans are healthy and attractive is a learned and deeply rooted belief that dates back to the 1920s,” Casey said. “Prior to that time, tanning was associated with outdoor labor, usually performed in a low-class setting. In contrast, the wealthy upper class pride themselves on their pale skin, often using parasols to protect their skin from the sun when outdoors. This attitude changed in the 1920s, when fashion icon Coco Chanel, along with prestigious publications such as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, began to associate tanned skin with leisure, wealth, travel and social status.

The study found that 72 percent of high-risk people, including those with a history of skin cancer, viewed the sun as healthy—a figure that was higher among those without a history of skin cancer or other sun-related skin problems. .

“My patients with a history of skin cancer spend more time in the sun than their counterparts without skin cancer. Likewise, skin cancer patients value sun exposure during recreational activities, vacations, or activities. “Most people don’t go back and change those experiences because they didn’t have skin cancer. They associate tans with important events in their lives. Thus, many associate ‘tan’ with health, consciousness, relaxation, recreation, productivity, happiness.

Such attitudes die hard, Casey said, and need more of an approach to change.

My recommendation is to use atomic routines. “Make small changes to your routine that you can make consistently,” she says. “For example, wear a hat at outdoor sporting events. Keep your sunscreen next to your toothbrush. Don’t forget to brush your teeth and having your sunscreen there will help keep sunscreen on your mind. Focus on applying sunscreen to your face, scalp and ears as these areas are most exposed to the sun most days.

Experts stress that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours for full protection, but half of those surveyed only use sunscreen once a day (and 10 percent said they never use sunscreen).

“Many individuals do not use the amount of sunscreen needed to reach the SPF level on sunscreen products,” Casey said. “In fact, studies show that in general, most of us use enough to get half of the SPF rating on a sunscreen product.”

The Pediatric Dermatology Association offers these sun protection guidelines:

  • For small children, half a teaspoon for the face and one ounce for the body.
  • For older children, teens, and adults, use at least nine teaspoons in total, including one teaspoon for the face and neck, one teaspoon, one for the muscles, one for the back, one teaspoon for each arm, and two teaspoons for each leg.

Most sunscreens are only effective for 90 to 120 minutes, experts note.

The choice of sunscreen is also important, they say. Pediatric Dermatology Association He advises. Broad-spectrum (blocks both UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Casey says people with lighter skin should use at least SPF 45.

Avoid direct sun exposure between the peak hours of 10 am and 2 pm American Academy of Dermatology He advises. Wear protective clothing outdoors, including a wide-brimmed hat that protects the face, scalp, ears, and neck.


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