The Tan Commandments: Realistic Rules For Sun Safety
If there’s one thing that’s as good as basking under a hot sun for a week or two, it’s walking around at home afterwards with a gorgeous glow that makes you look healthy and skinnier, and reminds you of all the craic you had when you were away. But we all know frying yourself under the sun is very bad for your skin. That said, we’ll probably all do it to some extent anyway. With that in mind, here are some realistic tips for bronzed bodies and sun safety this summer.
1 Thou shalt not give in to your base instincts.
You know the rumour, that using sunbeds to build up a base colour is safe because you are less likely to burn? Yeah, that rumour is a rumour. Studies have shown the extra SPF (sun protection factor) offered by a base tan to be less than Factor 4. The benefits of getting a base tan are almost purely cosmetic. You won’t turn up on the beach looking like Casper the ghost, which is always nice, but don’t fool yourself into believing you are doing your skin any real favours. Don’t overdo it, and don’t ditch the sun cream; a tan is not a shield!
2. Wear protection
I know I’ve just said it. I’m saying it again. Wear Sunscreen. Even if you tan easily, even if you already have a lot of melanin in your skin, even if you’ve done the base tan thing. Just wear it, or you’ll end up looking like that old lady from Something About Mary.
3 Thou shalt not miss a spot
Everyone’s done it. In your rush to get to the beach or pool and begin a hard day’s lying around, you take the sun cream with you and apply it poolside. This is a bad idea for two reasons; 1 – you may well be sweating it off before it’s fully absorbed, and 2 – you are far more likely to miss parts of your body.
Apply sun cream in your room before you go out. Modesty isn’t an issue so you can be totally starkers, and free to get into whatever positions you need to get your sun cream everywhere it needs to be. If you’ve ever dealt with angry red lines around the edges of your bikini line, or random patches of burnt skin on your back, you’ll know how good this advice is.
4 Thou shalt fake it
Get the cosmetic benefits of a base tan without the gnarled leather handbag effect on your skin – fake it. Fake it like you mean it. Fake it like Meg Ryan in a New York Deli. Whether you get a professional spray tan or apply it yourself – you will arrive on the beach looking like an Amazonian goddess/god, and not one wrinkle will you have paid for the pleasure. Self-tan has come a long way since you were desperately trying to scrub off streaks of your sun-shimmer in the 90s, and you can get some really good stuff that looks beautiful and natural, and not a bit orange. I love TanOrganics tanning oil – it goes on easy, dries quick, doesn’t streak, doesn’t smell, lasts for ages, looks really natural, and comes in a 100ml bottle that’s just the right size to get past the liquid police at check-in.
5 Thou shalt pre-pale
If you are a fake tan fan already, it can be hard to go back to a pasty pallor – but giving your skin a break is the best way to get a really nice, even and long-lasting self-tan that will see you through as much of your holiday as possible. Let all those scaly bits disappear from ankles, knees, cleavage and wrists, and use a wash-off tan every day during this time if you can’t handle the paleness. Oh, and exfoliate and moisturise like your life depends on it during the pale days too, so that you apply your pre-holiday tan to a clean and smooth blank canvas. I love all of Soap and Glory’s exfoliating stuff (their exfoliating gloves most of all). In fact, whether you’re faking it or not, exfoliation and moisture is a good idea. Out with the old, in with the new and all that.
6 Thou shalt wear a hat and shades
And not just because it gives you the chance to look like a superstar. I mean, a lot because of that, but also because good sunglasses and hats protect your most delicate skin from sun damage. Your actual eyes and the skin around them, the bridge of your nose and cheekbones, your scalp and forehead – all of that beautiful face of yours, in fact – will be kept safe from the sun rays. If you go for a big, full brim hat you’ll be protecting the back of your neck and your shoulders too. As well as looking like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Win win.
7 Thou shalt accept the things you cannot change
I know I’m guilty of it; glancing jealously at the glistening, bronzed woman a few towels down, determined to somehow become Greek and beautiful, while I slather more oil on myself, trying to ignore the faint smell of cooking flesh rising from my freckled Irish stomach. But if you’re very pale with fair hair and freckles and you tend to burn easily, I have some bad news for you… you’re very fair-skinned with red hair and freckles, and you burn easily. You probably shouldn’t tan at all. I’m sorry. Someone had to say it. Use fake tan; it’s safe and it’s good stuff. If you must sit in the sun, use a high factor. And keep your translucent chin up; you might not be tanned now but your skin will be better than all the tanners when you’re older. Take that, Greek goddess.
8 Thou shalt try your very best to obey the afternoon rule
I have a feeling this one will fall on many deaf ears.
But really, the sun is at its hottest (and therefore its most damaging) between 10am and 4pm every day. “But that’s the whole day!” I hear you shout. Yeah I know. And I know your tan-thirsty brain will be telling you that that’s probably the best time to change colour. Being a realist, I won’t tell you NOT to go into the sun between these hours, but do be very careful and give your poor skin a break for at least a few hours during that time. Find some shade. Small doses really are best. ‘Fried bacon’ is not a good look on anyone.
9 Thou shalt not trust make up alone
Yes I know your Estee Lauder Doublewear says SPF10 on the bottle. Mine does too. But make up can tend to crack on the skin, and it sweats off in hot weather – besides which, SPF 10 is wholly inadequate to protect your face from a hot sun. Yes, it makes you look pretty – just don’t trust it as sun protection. It’s great extra protection for everyday wear in winter, but if you’re somewhere hot, put on some proper sunscreen first. Once it’s absorbed, feel free to slap on the slap because this is your face, and unless you plan on giving a lot of money to plastic surgeons, it’s the only one you get.
10 Thou shalt slather…
…yourself with aftersun. A good aftersun will cool and moisturise your skin after a day in the sun, and it will help your tan last that bit longer. Also if you use a nice one you will smell and feel and look beautiful. Aloe is a really popular ingredient and it works a treat, but my favourite thing to use is pure shea butter. It smells gorgeous, it goes on super-silky, your skin will feel all buttery and delicious, and because it’s solid you don’t have to worry about taking it in cabin baggage. So when you get in in the evening and you’ve washed the sand and sun cream residue off, smear this stuff all over yourself and feel fantastic.
That’s it. Nothing too outrageous. I haven’t told you to sit in a dark room with factor 80 all over you and a sheet over your head – just be a bit sensible, and take care of yourself. And if you have any more good sun safety or tanning tips, leave them in the comments below!