There are products on the market that destroy people’s skin!
They should be taken off the market permanently.
What are these products?
They are products that frequently are labeled tanning lotions, bronzing lotions, browning lotions with sunscreen.
These and many other are horrible products!
These are products that are marketed to people who want to go outside and tan but not burn. They have a little bit of low-level SPF in them to allow the user to stay outdoors for a long time to achieve a tan without getting a burn.
How is it that they do this?
The sunscreens have a very low SPF and they often have little to no UVA protection in the product. so they’re really only giving you a little bit of protection against the burning rays, allowing you to stay outside longer and not burn, so that you can get a tan.
Why is this so dangerous?
It’s dangerous because a sun induced or a tanning bed induced tan is not safe and reflects skin injury. Tanning is largely mediated by UVA.
UVA is actually a big, big chunk of the sun that not only hits our skin when we’re outside, but also comes through the window and UVA activates enzymes in our skin called matrix metalloproteinases that degrade the collagen in our skin, leading to the formation of wrinkles down the road.
They are what are responsible for photo aging. It’s gonna make you look old prematurely.
UVA rays also lead to skin thickening. It’s part of the tanning response. Your skin actually becomes thickened and leathery in an effort to block out some UV, but the end result is photo damage.
It’s a wounding response. Tanning is not safe.
Tanning, which is largely mediated by UVA, is celebrated in our society. We live in a society that celebrates having a tan and celebrates this “healthy glow.”
But I have to tell that tanning is skin injury. Period. There’s no such thing as a safe tan.
These products are dangerous because they promote the idea that you can safely tan. That’s very dangerous. It’s especially dangerous to adolescents and teenagers who are more inclined to seek social acceptance amongst their peers and are more likely to engage in tanning behaviors, which are reinforced by products like this.
While I never want anybody to have a sunburn, like a tan, it is a type of serious skin injury. It is nothing to joke about.
But I will say this. One potential positive, you might say, about a sunburn is that it gets people to come inside and in the future people will remember that painful experience of a burn and maybe less likely to engage in tanning behaviors that can destroy their skin.
But when you remove that burning aspect, what happens is that people stay out longer and in doing so, expose their skin to high doses of UVA, which is so dangerous to the health of our skin.
I’ll give you some historical context as to why these products are so dangerous.
Many years ago when sunscreens first came on the market, they did not have adequate UVA protection. They were basically very similar to these tanning products.
What we learned is that people put them on and because the products protected them from a burn, they stayed out longer than they ever would have had they not had the sunscreen on. So it encouraged excessive sun exposure by preventing a burn.
That’s the issue that happened many, many years ago. Now in 2020, we have people who have skin cancer and we are seeing more and more and more skin cancers. It’s the most common cancer.
A lot of criticism around sunscreen is we’ve got sunscreen and we had an increase in usage of sunscreen, maybe it’s causing the skin cancer. No. Sunscreen didn’t cause the skin cancer. It caused people to stay out in the sun too long and over expose themselves to UVA.
Sunscreen alone is not enough. You have to seek other measures, like wearing a hat, wearing sunglasses and umbrella and avoiding being outdoors for prolonged period of time.
If we don’t do diligence in products to have good UVA protection, there’s not going to be a cognitive aspect to this for the consumer to appreciate till it is too late.
What do I mean by that?
Well when we protect against a burn, consumer can appreciate the fact the product is protecting their skin from the painful injury of burning, but when the product doesn’t offer any protection against those UVA rays, there’s really nothing
cognitively to clue the consumer into that aspect of the sunscreen or sun protective product.
It’s something that people are not going to be aware of.
Why does that matter?
Because when the product lacks that UVA blanket then a) the consumer might stay out too long, and b) they’re getting higher doses of UVA because some of the UVB is being filtered out, their skin is taking in more UVA. As a result, they’re getting more of those photo aging rays and this immune suppressive rays, those rays that set you up for skin cancer.
But unfortunately all of those outcomes don’t appear until 10 or 20 years later.
So these products are super dangerous for young people in particular. Why do I say young people? Again, they are just statistically more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, to not fully grasp risks and appreciate delayed gratification, and they’re more likely to seek social acceptance.
That doesn’t mean that they’re the only ones at risk, but specifically Fitzpatrick skin photo type 3 folks.
What do I mean by that?
Take a look at this schematic so you can see what I’m talking about:
The Fitzpatrick photo types is a scale that gives a sense of how your skin responds to ultraviolet radiation.
Fitzpatrick photo types 1 and 2 are people who burn and so they have a negative association with with sun exposure and these products that offer low SPF are not going to be enough to protect them from a burn.
When it comes to Fitzpatrick phototype 5 and 6, their skin does not burn at baseline. In general I find that products that are talking about burns and give that cognitive aspect to protect you from the painful experience of a burn, they’re kind of lost on those hires hire photo types, who never burn and are like, “okay I don’t need this.”
That’s a major problem in and of itself, because those groups don’t use the good sunscreen because they feel they don’t need it because they don’t burn, but they do.
Coming back to the bad products.
The bad products are particularly bad for photo type 3 folks like myself, because I can burn and I can tan. I can go both ways in terms of response to ultraviolet radiation.
So a product like this will keep me from burning, it will allow me to tan and it will give me social acceptance and as a result, when I am in my later years, I will have more photo damage, I’ll have more skin cancers, etc.
The type of people who will tell you “I get a burn here and there, but it turns into a tan,” it doesn’t turn into a tan. Burning is a type of skin injury and tanning is a type of skin injury. It’s like two different versions of wounding of the skin.
These are people who seek a tan and end up exposing themselves to way too much skin injury. It’s a serious problem and these products that only protect against a little bit of UVB, just enough to block that painful experience of a burn, they open up those people to the tanning rays that are so dangerous.
That is why these products are bad and need to be taken off the market and replaced exclusively with sunscreens that not only will protect you reliably against a burn, but also will protect you against UVA.
Another reason that these products are a major problem is that a lot of them have fragrance in them.
Fragrance is sensitizing, meaning it can it can make you more likely to develop an allergy to ingredients and products.
But when you take those fragrance ingredients and you expose them to UVA, they become even more likely to become photo allergens. Essentially the UV changes the way they look and they become more sensitizing.
What I want you to appreciate from this article is the fact that getting a sunburn is bad, but it’s not the only type of skin injury. A tan is a type of skin injury and both a tan and a burn are two types of skin injury that put you at risk for premature photoaging, suppress the immune system in your skin and contribute to skin cancer formation.
Regardless of your Fitzpatrick photo type, whether you are 1 or 6, you need to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect yourself from these rays and a sunscreen that just gives you a little bit of protection against burning is not enough and those should be taken off the market. They’re dangerous.
When I speak about the negative aspects of UVA, I want you to understand that UVB and UVA work together in a fluid manner to damage your skin and to contribute to photo aging. But it’s important for you to be aware that there are two types of UV that are affecting your skin mostly.
It’s a UVA and not UVB that is responsible for a lot of photosensitive diseases and many medications that you might take, including just over-the-counter pain relievers, they make your skin more sensitive to those UVA rays.
UVA not only does it contribute to this aging and to skin cancer, but it also is a major driving factor for what’s called post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, an aspect of photo aging that is more for Fitzpatrick photo types 4, 5 and 6.
If you have a teenager at home, please caution them against these products. If they are motivated to tan and not appreciating the aspect of delayed gratification and what can happen to them down the road, I encourage you to download an app called Sun Face and it will show your teenager what their skin looks like now and what it will look in 10-15 years if they don’t protect their skin from the sun. And what it will look like 10-15 years down the road if they tan just once a week.
It was recently shown in some studies to be an effective tool for motivating young people to use sunscreen and some protective behaviors.
Rebecca is a licensed aesthetician and certified laser technician with almost 15 years experience in the dermatology. Her life-long passion is making people look good and happy.