Pale is the New Tan, Part 1

Posted on May 15, 2013

Pale is the new tan. I saw that phrase on the cover of a magazine quite a few years ago. It was just about the time that I was really starting to adopt the idea that a tan is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I’m a true Florida girl, born and raised in St. Petersburg. I spent my teenage years yearning to spend my days at the beach. Any chance I could get to meet my friends at Redington Shores, I took it. And I did NOT wear sunscreen. Well, that’s not necessarily true. I used tanning oil with an SPF 4. That counts, right? NO! But it didn’t matter, because sometimes I didn’t use any at all. There were days where I just used straight baby oil. Being half Italian, I could obtain a pretty nice bronze color – after the initial “first sunburn of the summer” of course. And I thought that was normal. Get your first sunburn out of the way, and tan after that. My mother (founder and owner of DayGlo Med-Spa) had just started getting serious about skin care and would beg me to wear sunscreen. Did I listen? Of course not! I was 16 and wanted to have the best possible tan I could achieve.

It never really clicked until just before I started working at the med-spa. These days, I wish my skin was porcelain pale with no sun damage. Unfortunately, the damage has been done. I was born with some freckles but I have more than I should, thanks to the sun. I have been diligent with my skin care and treatments to reduce the sun damage on my face but my shoulders and chest still show the signs of sun damage, thanks to my teenage beach days.

Now I see all these young teenagers posting pictures on Instagram from inside the tanning bed, with the hashtag #tanlife. I know it seems so glamorous and beautiful but it changes when you’re older. That tan you once coveted suddenly shows its true colors. I once read, “a tan is basically visible skin and cell damage.” Not so glamorous sounding anymore, right?

UV Damage

Photo Courtesy of CNET.com. Click image to view original article.

UV light shows sun damage that the naked eye can’t see in normal light. This is a 35-year-old melanoma survivor who agreed to share photos showing UV damage. Notice the pale skin? Even though she is no longer tan, the damage remains.

How it works:

Melanin is what gives your skin, hair and eyes their color. Melanin is also what your body produces to help defend the skin against the harmful UV rays. To make it simple, when harmful UV rays hit the skin and begin to damage DNA, the body puts up its defenses. DNA sends a signal to your melanocyte cells – PRODUCE MORE MELANIN! Then, through a (complicated, scientific) cell process, pigment is produced in the skin and that’s when you tan, see freckles pop up or dark spots appear on your skin. This is sun damage.
So you may be thinking, “So what? A little sun damage is worth being beautifully bronzed.” Well, skin cell damage means the cells will not behave properly.

sun aging

Photo courtesy of health.yahoo.com. Click image to view original article.

UV damage also damages the collage and elastin in your skin, which is what gives your skin its firm, plump, youthful appearance. Damaged collagen and elastin causes skin to sag and fine lines and wrinkles to appear. This is a photo of a 69-year-old truck driver of 28 years. This is a great example of the difference between normal aging skin and accelerated aging from sun damage. After driving a truck for 28 years with his left side always exposed to the sun, we are able to see how the sun damaged the collagen and elastin on the left side in comparison to the right.

This blog post is not to tell you to never enjoy the beautiful sunshine or outdoor activities. It is to make you aware of the facts and realize what you’re sacrificing for a tan. There are safe ways to still enjoy the outdoors and there are also safe ways to achieve a tan!

Check back for Parts II and III on sun safety and melanoma!

Looking for new sunscreen this summer? We recommend SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50. It is a physical blocker, as opposed to a sunscreen with chemical filters, so it is suitable for more sensitive skin. It also has a universal tint of color to it, so it won’t leave that white/purple sunscreen hue on your skin. It is light-weight with a matte finish, and won’t leave you feeling greasy like many broad-spectrum sunscreens do!