It is understood by women universally that a suntan can camouflage a multitude of sins. As a result it is very tempting to dive straight out into the sun the minute you arrive at your destination, especially for those flying out to such holiday hot-spots as Cyprus or Spain. But unless you want to risk the possibility of getting cancer, ending up with skin like a piece of rawhide or spending the first few days of your holiday applying after-sun lotion every 20 minutes, it is advisable to follow a few rules. Not only will it help you get that perfect sun-kissed look with a tan that will last beyond the end of your trip, but it will prevent you from suffering unnecessarily.
1/ Colour Me Clever
Being prepared does not mean grilling yourself under a sunbed for days on end before Departure Day. Just as the sun can have negative effects, sunbeds condense all that is detrimental about sunbathing into one little man-made pod. They give out the same harmful UV rays which damage the skin and it is estimated that every year 100 deaths from melanoma are caused as a direct result in the UK.
The desire to have some colour before twanging on a bikini is understandable though which is why fake tan products are a godsend. They are not going to prematurely age your skin or make you ill and can be matched to suit your tone. Products such as Fake Bake and the St. Tropez Tan can be done at home, but if you don´t trust yourself then having one done professionally just before you go away is the perfect solution. Prices start from around £20.
If you are doing it yourself, then make sure that your body is properly exfoliated first to get rid of any rough skin (especially around the knees and elbows) which can effect a uniform coating and therefore appearance. Be sure to wash your hands after applying or you could end up looking like a member of the Red Hand Gang.
2/ Protect Yourself
While a gorgeous fake tan may make you feel less self-conscious when hitting the beach or hanging out pool-side, don’t be fooled into thinking that this type of colouration gives you any sort of protection. It doesn´t. After booking your flights to Cyprus or whichever holiday destination takes your fancy, sunscreen lotions should be at the top of your “Things to Buy” list, even when trying to get the ultimate tan, in fact more so.
It is advisable to buy a least a couple of different SPFs and a chemist will normally be able to help you establish which SPF is right for you. It is likely that your face may need a higher factor as it faces more constant exposure to the sun. SPF stands for sun protection factor and the figure on the front is an indication of how long you as an individual can spend out in the sun without burning. For example, if you are incredibly fair skinned and would start to burn in 5 minutes underneath direct sunlight, then an SPF 15 cream would give you protection supposedly of up to 75 minutes (more about this later).
3/ You´re there, you´re fair and now you´re semi-bare!
If you’re a typical Brit your skin is not designed to spend hours out in the sun, at least not all on its own-some. Even if for example, the Cyprus weather seems overcast, penetrating rays can still get through the clouds and to your skin. There is never a reason not to wear sunscreen. The SPF is just a guideline however because several factors can lessen how effective the sunscreen is. Sweating, being in and out of the water and rubbing against clothing can all gradually remove the coverage it provides. Even if it is waterproof, over time it will eventually come off. Ideally sunscreen should be reapplied roughly every hour to remain effective, especially if active.
At the start a higher factor (anything above SPF 15 depending on your skin type) should be used if you intend to spend all day out in the sun. Alternatively, only sit out in direct sunlight for short periods at a time with a factor between SPF 8-15. This is until your body has started to tan, indicating that melanin is being produced which is the body’s natural defence against the harmful rays. Ideally tanning should always be done in this way, in short bursts, rather than continually exposure. Not only is it healthier but it is better for the skin. While sunscreens protect from UVB rays, most do not prevent UVA rays from getting through, and although these are milder, they are still incredibly aging for your skin. Getting out of the sun does not mean, going indoors. Sitting under an umbrella or terrace can offer adequate protection, provided you are in the shade.
4/ Additional Factors
The sun is at its’ highest position in the sky, and therefore hottest, between 12 and 3pm. Sunbathing during these times should be avoided and it is better for you to stay in the shade if you are outside. As the eyes are incredibly sensitive to UV rays it is advisable to wear sunglasses to protect them and the delicate skin around the eye area which is prone to wrinkling. Some acne medications can cause the skin to become photo-sensitive, such as Retin-A and Roaccutane. This makes the skin more prone to long term damage if adequate precautions are not taken.