Getting tan is not what it's all bronzed up to be

Let’s face it; getting a tan is easy to do.  There are no instructions, warning labels, or sign-ups involved in exposing your skin to the sun- which might just be the problem.   If darkening our skin color came with an instruction manual, we would be much better off. There are so many general misconceptions floating around these days related to sun exposure and tanning that many people are probably doing serious damage to their skin while thinking their habits are perfectly safe.

So once and for all, I am going to clear up some of the most common tanning myths out there.  With  knowledge of safe tanning practices and a ton of sunscreen people will never be left defenseless in the sun again!

Myth: You do not need to wear sunscreen when it is cloudy.

Fact: When it is cloudy outside the amount of ultraviolet light reaching the surface of the earth is reduced.  However, clouds in the sky do not protect you from exposure to the sun.
People often make the mistake of staying outdoors longer when it is cloudy, but the increased time spent outside almost makes up for the fact that there is less UV radiation reaching the earth.  Wear sunscreen even when it is cloudy!

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Myth:  You need to spend time in the sun or in a tanning booth to get enough Vitamin D.

Fact: It is very true that exposure to sunlight triggers the production of Vitamin D, which has many health benefits. However, there are other sources of Vitamin D that are much safer than sun exposure. Foods that contain Vitamin D include salmon, tuna, mackerel, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, some breakfast cereals, certain brands of orange juice, or yogurt.  In addition, drinking one cup of fortified milk provides you with about 25 percent of your daily required Vitamin D.

If you are not eating a lot of these foods, less than ten minutes of natural sun exposure per day is all you need.  Even if you are outdoors and wearing sunscreen, you are probably producing Vitamin D since no sunscreen can completely block all UV rays.

Myth:  Clothing protects skin from sun exposure.

Fact: Several factors affect the sun protection you get from wearing clothing such as the clothing’s fabric, color, and how tight the fabric is weaved.  While most jeans probably provide adequate sun protection, a lightweight summer t-shirt that is white and made from cotton could potentially have an SPF as low as five.  If you are going to be outside for more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time, the minimum recommended SPF you should wear is 15.

If you spend a lot of time outside, websites like,, and offer clothing that is specially treated to help block UV rays.

Myth: If  under a beach umbrella, you are protected from the sun.

Fact:  While using an umbrella on the beach is a great way to help prevent sun damage, you should not be fooled into thinking an umbrella is the only protection you need.  Light and UV rays are reflected off of light surfaces like sand, water and concrete and can still find you in the shade.  Beach umbrellas are still a great idea, but you should combine them with sunscreen for full protection.

Myth: A “base tan” will protect you from sun damage and prevent sunburn.

Fact:  When your skin gets a natural tan from the sun it contains increased melanin, which does give it a slightly higher resistance to burning.  However, this increased resistance is equivalent to an SPF of around 3 or 4.

Getting that base tan from the intense UV light in a tanning salon actually increases the damage to your skin and offers even less protection than the natural tan from the sun.

Many people that have previously spent a lot of time soaking up UV rays, either inside or outside, sometimes make the mistake of thinking that the damage to their skin is already done.  However, the effects of UV light are cumulative.  Not correcting your bad tanning habits only leads to an increased amount of damage in the future.

Myth: Tanning can clear up acne.

Fact:  Tanning makes your skin thicker and darker in color, which makes acne harder to see. Tanning does dry out your skin and could help to dry out acne as well, but it will not solve the entire problem.  Either way, tanning damages skin and can cause even more problems in the long run.

Myth: You do not have to worry about sun exposure in the winter.

Fact: Even if it is cold, when you are outside your skin is exposed to UV rays from the sun. It is even more important to protect skin from the sun and its UV rays if you are up in the mountains. At higher elevations the sun’s rays are more intense because the air becomes thinner and there is not as much atmosphere separating you from the sun.