Saturday, July 6, 2013

To Tan or Not to Tan… that is the question

Is there any such thing as a healthy tan?

I am talking about the tan we get from being out in the sunshine, not the kind we get from special lights in tanning parlors and tanning beds.

Do you tan?  Do you lay in the sun just to get some color on your skin?

I am getting rather confused by all the conflicting information coming my way this Summer.

Some magazine articles I see say that we should stay out of the sun as much as we can and that if we do venture outdoors during the heat of the day, to cover up with special fabrics, wear hats, and make sure to use sunscreens and sunblocker products with an SPF rating of at least 30.

Some articles I see say that any SPF over 45 is a waste of money.  That 50 or 60 is not really much more protection than 45 and not to be purchased.

But some of the books I have read recently recommend time in the sunshine every day in order to soak up some natural Vitamin D…. and that sunscreens are not good for us.  These are very new publications so should have up to date information, right?

And they say that if you spend a bit of time each day in the sun, that you don’t need sunscreens because we build up a natural immunity to the harmful rays.   That if  you are someone whose mouth breaks out in fever blisters the first time you are out for a prolonged period of time in the Summer, that it can be avoided if you make a point of getting out in the sunshine on a daily basis and get your body used to it.

And if you are particularly fair and really need a sunscreen to prevent burning to make that you allow 15 or 20 minutes out in the sun to get some Vitamin D first, and then apply the sunscreen.

Now I am of Celtic descnet, and I have fair, freckly skin, and have suffered some pretty painful sunburns over the years.  I don’t need to spend very much time outside before I turn pink.  I remember one particular visit to Mexico when I got my feet sunburned the first day there and they blistered and peeled, and that first week my mouth broke out in the worst fever blisters that I have ever experienced as well. 

Yes, I am one of those people.

My nose has peeled more times over the years than I could ever think to remember.  I have even burned my ear lobes and my scalp.  I burn when we snow ski,  when I run, when we play tennis, and especially when we sail. 

So what to do? 

In all honesty, I do feel like I look a bit better with a smidgeon of a tan. 

But I have gone from wanting a very dark one to being happy with just a bit of color…. and I no longer care to have my face get tanned.  Yes, I admit that it is because those little crinkly smile lines around my eyes show up more when I have been ‘kissed’ by the sun.  But I have light aqua-colored eyes, and they just look plain weird peering out of a brown face!

Our first Summer aboard I was so brown already by mid June

When we are on the boat, sailing or just swinging on the anchor, it is impossible to avoid the sunshine.  And why would I want to anyway?  But I now wear a hat, and oversized sunglasses.  And I make sure my face is slathered with a sunblocker – anywhere from SPF 45 to 60 – and I cover and recover my lips with a balm with at least SPF 30 many, many times throughout the day.    I will even use SPF 30 on my shoulders and feet, and usually SPF 20 on my legs on particularly bright and hot days.

But for day to day, now that we are in the city so much, I really don’t think I need that kind of coverage.

I am still using at good higher SPF for my face, especially my nose and under my eyes, and always some SPF 30 balm on my mouth… just not taking any chances with those darn fever blisters no matter what that book said and I will use those all Summer long. 

And when we are poolside, I will keep a hat on to shade my face, too when we are lounging in the sunshine or more likely for me, with my head in the shade.

But this year, I am going to forego the sunscreen on the rest of my body (other than when out on the boat) and see how it goes. 

I like the idea of getting some natural Vitamin D from going 'bare skinned' and I do want to enjoy the visual benefit of a bit of color.  But no burns and dark tans for me anymore.

What is your take on the whole natural suntan issue?

Do you like a bit of a tan?  Darker or lighter, or not at all?

Do you use a sunscreen or a sunblocker?


  1. I don't use sunscreen. I do use a facial moisturizer that has an SPF factor of some kind.
    I don't tan, I get sun when out for runs or walks. Can't say I'm a fan of heat, so tend to stay indoors in the summer (ok, also because I'm afraid of snakes).
    I agree sun is important for vitamin D, and I do take a supplement especially during the winter months.
    I think people look healthier with a bit of colour but not too much!
    I know at least 3 people who have had sun induced melanoma's so I am leary of the sun.

  2. I don't really 'tan' anymore either although I used to when I was younger. But I do spend lots of time outside and some of that is sitting and reading, gardening, etc. and surely involves being in the sun. I do a Vitamin D3 supplement as well but should likely not in the Summer....need to think about that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. I used to lay out in the sun just for the purpose of getting a tan...
    now I don't .. I don't know if it's because I don't care to or just because I don't have the time... but everything I've heard says that it's not good for you... I really am not a scientist so i have no idea if that is true or not ;)
    This summer I've been inside so much that my skin has my "winter glow" about it ;)

  4. I let the sun naturally tan me. I feel 100 times better when I have a little color on my skin. I am half Italian and half Polish so I tan very easily. I use sunscreen but it doesn't do any good because I tan through it.

  5. ALWAYS USE SUNSCREEN. It won't protect you 100%; therefore you will get SOME color, but you are putting yourself at risk of getting skin cancer by not using adequate sunscreen. I might sound preachy, but I'm going to say this: It doesn't matter if YOU think your own vanity is worth risking your life; your loved ones feel differently. They'd rather have you pale than to watch you suffer with skin cancer or to not have you at all because of it. A nice tan is totally not worth the risk.

  6. As a teen I baked out in the sun for tanning's sake. I rarely if ever had a peeling sunburn. My skin is olive.
    That said, I haven't tanned in eons, but rather get sun at non-peak times (usually early morning) while I'm out running/walking/cycling. I rarely wear sunblock but use a moisturizer w/SPF on my face. I feel like the Vitamin D does wonders for me and really struggle with getting enough of it in winter.
    All of this would be different if I had fair skin and burned easily. I think everyone's different.

  7. I like how I look when I am tan but I always wear sunscreen when I am out in the sun. I used to tan in a tanning bed when I was a teenager and I hope that doesn't come back to bite me:/

  8. I always use sunscreen!!! I know that as old as I am & what we did not know way back when still puts me at risk for skin cancer now so I would say use it.... I don't think it is worth the risk...

  9. Elle, I have the same colouring as you. I have never been a sun-tanner; partly because I get bored sitting still (!) but also because skin cancer runs in my family.

    My 70 year old father just recently recovered from a stage 4 melanoma diagnosis. He has spent a lifetime in the sun (with no sunscreen until the last 10 years). I truly believe this is cause and effect.

    I always wear sunscreen on my face (SPF 30), even in the cloudy Vancouver winter! And many tell me that my skin looks younger than it's 46 years.

    I realize that this is a 'to each her own' topic of conversation and love that you've opened up the discussion!

  10. I used to tan so easily when I was younger. I was dark brown all the time! As I've gotten older, my skin (and hair) have lightened

  11. I use to tan every summer. It was just part of what we did..lay out and get tanned. When I turned 18 I stopped laying out and I stick to my pale skin. There are so many Mosquito's here and I won't lay out and I just don't feel like paying for a tan.

  12. I do not tan. Ever. I only ever burn, so I always slather on high SPF sunscreen and wear facial sunscreen every day of the year including winter. If I know I have an outdoor lunch or something as a part of my work day, I will also put on sunscreen. My dad has hand non-cancerous melanoma and I just won't risk it. I even bought a longsleved SPF shirt for the beach this year.

  13. This is such a tough subject - I totally get that too much sun can damage our skin (and heck, I guess even a bit of a tan is technically still damage...) But it just feels so good to get out there and soak it up and yes, I think we all look a bit better with some colour! Anyhow, my philosophy is that I try not to be afraid of the sun, I just make sure I've always got sunscreen on so that hopefully I'm lessening the damage.

  14. Great post, Elle! I get a natural tan just by being OUTSIDE, but I do not lay out to get one. I heard recently that sunblock should be used specifically to block UVA/B rays, which cause skin damage and cancer, but all you need is up to a 45. I heard you can still tan with sunblocks, which is fine, as long as you aren't getting the bad rays (which I think cause a burn?). I have wondered about all of this myself because I also hear so much conflicting information. I am bad about wearing sunscreen period so I am sure that is dangerous because if I get burned, I guess it means I am am letting those bad rays do damage.

  15. Wow Elle you are super dark in that photo! I am the same coloring as you and I always wear sunscreen. I admit, I have been known to lay out from time to time, but it's been a while. Now I just go outside to run/hike and I put plenty of sunblock on beforehand. I have a funny runner tan line but I don't care!


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