Consequences of tanning may put some students at risk
With many of the summer months spent outside, sunblock is a crucial accessory to keep on hand to protect skin from harsh UV rays. However, many do not properly use and re-apply sunscreen in the most beneficial ways, which results in harsh long-term consequences.
Senior Angela Bifsha believes that although attaining that summer “glow” may be desirable, the negative and lasting effects of tanning outweigh the satisfaction of a darker complexion.
There is no such thing as a “safe” tan, according to Web MD, and any prolonged sun exposure harms the skin as well as accelerates the skin’s aging process.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), premature aging, sometimes referred to as “photoaging,” is the result of unprotected UV exposure.
“The increase in skin pigment, called melanin, which causes the tan color change in your skin is a sign of damage,” according to the FDA website. “[Photoaging] takes the form of leathery, wrinkled skin, and dark spots.”
A serious drawback of sunbathing can include getting skin cancer, with stages that can range from minor to life-threatening.
The Skin Cancer Foundation’s website states that a person’s risk for melanoma—the most serious form of skin cancer— doubles if a person has had five or more sunburns.
Although Bifsha doesn’t regularly apply sunscreen, she still believes that sunscreen is vital, especially in the summer.
“Even though I don’t really wear [sunscreen] that often (even though I should), I have seen the horrible side effects that the sun can have on skin with no [protection],” she said. “It’s so important to protect your skin against the harsh rays, especially in the summer.”
Applying sunscreen to sun-exposed skin is a way to prevent possible burning from the UV rays. Sunscreen contains a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) number, however, many do not know what this means.
“[SPF] refers to how much longer it takes you to sunburn while wearing that sunscreen, not to how much protection you’re getting,” according to Web MD. “For example, it should take 15 times longer for you to sunburn with an SPF 15 sunscreen than it would if you weren’t wearing any; with an SPF 30, it should take 30 times longer.”
Senior Greer Davis regularly applies sunscreen during the summertime because she believes there is no way of avoiding the sun.
“For the majority of my summer days, I will apply sunblock right over my [spray] tan, if I have one at the time, because the solution I use does not contain any SPFs,” Davis said. “I will normally apply a 30 SPF, which seems to be a good amount for me.”
Web MD states that using sunscreen may postpone getting a sunburn, however, it does not fully protect the skin.
“An SPF 30 screens out only a small percentage more UVB rays (97 percent) than an SPF 15 (93 percent), so higher SPF numbers do not indicate a proportionately higher amount of sunscreen strength,” the cite stated. “No sunscreen provides 100 percent protection.”
According to Web MD, when clouds cover the sun it may seem like sunscreen is unnecessary, however, clouds do not protect the skin from sun damage.
“According to the American Academy of Dermatology, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds and damage your skin,” their website stated.
Although sunscreen is essential, there is a low rate of regular sunscreen use among young adults. According to Web MD, only 37 percent of women ages 18-29 and about 16 percent of men in that age group said they use sunscreen most of the time.
Eighteen percent of surveyed UA students said they never applied sunscreen unless the sun was strong and 15 percent never applied sunscreen unless they were already burnt.
Although Bifsha does not regularly apply sunscreen, she strives to use sunscreen on her face.
“I always try to put sunscreen on my face, although I don’t always practice what I preach,” she said. “But I never put sunscreen on my body.”
Even though many do not use sunscreen often, some people, such as sophomore Anna Grumman, wear a generous amount to protect their skin.
“I’ve always applied sunblock pretty liberally,” Grumman said. “If I’m out in the sun for a while, I take extra caution and try to apply it every hour and a half or so, particularly to my face and shoulders.”