Here's how to get a natural tan this summer without damaging your skin

trending 03/12/2018

We love a good tan, usually of the fake variety though - it's easier and usually much safer for our poor skin! 

That doesn't mean we should avoid the sun completely though. Funnily enough that big burning ball of fire in the skin can be quite good for us. It boosts our serotonin levels (the happiness chemical), as well as giving us good ol' vitamin D which we need for healthy bones, teeth and skin. 

So we need to find a happy compromise where we can get the rays our skin craves, while also keeping ourselves safe. So here's how:

No matter what anyone says, SUNBEDS ARE ALWAYS BAD. Certain salons may tell you they can give you a 'healthy' tan, but they can't. Tanning beds produce the wrong type of UV - they give huge amounts of UVA and almost no UVB. Basically UVA rays penetrate our skin more deeply than UVB, and play a major role in skin aging as well as skin cancer development. Tanning beds can emit UVA at doses of up to 12 times that of the sun - so they can increase melanoma risk by up to 75%. Yikes.

UVB, while still damaging, damages the skin at a more superficial level, and is where we get our vitamin D from.

Don't just look for SPF - make sure your bottle has the term 'broad spectrum', and look for the UVA logo to make sure you're being protected from both types of ray.

But what does the SPF number mean? It's basically telling you how long the sun's UV raditation would take to redden your skin vs. without any sunscreen. A SPF 30 allows about 3% of UVB rays to hit your skin, whereas an SPF 50 allows about 2%. So really, you're not much better off using SPF 50. This often gives you a false sense of security, meaning you don't reapply.

So to help build a natural tan safely, an SPF 30 is perfect, as long as you reapply every two hours. 

Staying out in the sun all day won't actually make you tan more. You skin has a saturation point at which it physically can't produce any more melanin (the tanning pigment). So longer isn't better - it's just subjecting your skin to more damage. Take regular breaks from the sun to reduce UV intensity, and to build a healthier, longer-lasting tan. 

Most people's melanin cut-off will be about two to three hours, shorter with fair skin and longer with darker skin. Don't over bake guys!

You may have heard of 'tan-accelerating' creams you can apply to your skin to make you tan faster - these don't work, full stop. Nothing you apply to your skin can improve your production of melanin. 

Taking beta-carotene supplements can though - check your local health care store for supplements of about 20g. Taking one of these daily won't mean you need less sunscreen, but it will boost your skin's natural defense against UV by improving it's ability to tan. Ideal!

The skin's natural SPF is called lycopene - it's an antioxidant that can be found in tomatoes, watermelon, and other red fruit and veges. And it can boost your skin's sun protection by up to 33%! So get eating those red foods to stop you turning red. Apparently tomato paste is one of the best sources of lycopene - hey, we'll take any excuse to eat more spag bol!

Dark chocolate can also help protect you from sunburn believe it or not, thanks to it's flavonoids. And we can't forget our fave: caffeine. Drinking coffee, especially black, can help increase your protection from skin cancer by up to 21% for women, and 10% for men. Remember this isn't a replacement for sunscreen though!

And of course, you don't have to absolutely roast your skin to get that glow - lather on that fake tan gal. And it can actually ease the harshness of the sun on your non-tan skin, but again, only when wearing sunscreen. We recommend Bondi Sands or Loving Tan to get that perf colour without the damage.