Suntan solutions

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014


THE scorching heat of the day sometimes makes us feel it’s still the dry season. Our heat-loving countrymen may have already reached their fill of beach combing and even sea diving. A good number may even simply enjoy the revered beauty of sun tanning, even as Pagasa has declared the start of the rainy season.

In our tropical country, skin darkening can either be an object or simply a consequence of staying long under the sun in beaches and swimming pools. Either way, exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun to obtain that suntan brings injury to your epidermis, the top layer of your skin.

How does it happen? Excessive exposure to UV rays causes direct and indirect damage to our skin's genetic materials, the DNA. In response to this damage, the body seeks to repair the damage and protect the skin by creating and releasing melanin into the skin cells. Melanin (produced by cells called melanocytes) protects the body, absorbing solar radiation. With increased production of melanin comes the darkening of the skin.

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This, however, accelerates the effects of aging (age and wrinkle faster), impairs the immune system in the peripheral areas, and increases risk for developing skin cancer (especially melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer), practically because of the irradiation of the DNA, which result in DNA mutation.

An alternative method of sun tanning, called spray tanning, involves the use of tanning chemicals in the form of creams, gels, lotions and sprays had been proposed. Tanning sprays use either dihydroxyacetone (DHA) or erythrulose. In fact, products called bronzers provide a temporary effect. The United States Food and Drug Administration, however, does not support the use of DHA spray as it has no safety data available currently.

DHA is permitted for use as additive in cosmetics but restricted to external application. Spray use can expose restricted areas such as the eyes, lips or mucous membranes.

Make sure to steer away from the so-called tanning activators, which usually use psoralen, a known carcinogen when exposed to UV light. It had been banned in the United States since July 1996.

Also keep away from tanning beds. The International Agency for Research on Cancer placed it at the highest cancer risk category (carcinogenic to humans). When used at age 35, risk for melanoma shoots up to 87 percent.

The best way to avoid these dangers is to steer clear from exposing yourself to direct sunlight to the point of darkening your skin. If you cannot avoid it, use any of these home remedies to remove your sun tan: lemon juice, aloe vera, raw potato, cucumber and similar juicy fruits and vegetables.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 25, 2014.

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