|The Science of Tanning
||As a tanner,
you've probably always been curious about exactly how your skin
tans. The process is really quite simple, and works the same
whether you tan indoors or outdoors.
Ultraviolet light is the catalyst, and a
pigment in your skin called melanin does the rest.
Here's a layman's description of the
Tanning takes place in the skin's outermost
layer, the epidermis. About five percent of the cells in your epidermis
are special cells called melanocytes. When exposed to ultraviolet B
light (short wave ultraviolet), melanocytes produce melanin-the pigment
which is ultimately responsible for your tan. The pinkish melanin
travels up through the epidermis and is absorbed by other skin cells.
When exposed to ultraviolet A light (longer wave), the melanin oxidizes
or darkens. This darkening is your skin's way of protecting itself
against too much UV light.
Everyone has the same number of melanocytes in
their body-about five million. But your heredity dictates how much
melanin your body's melanocytes naturally will produce. For example, the
skin of African-Americans contains enough melanin to create a black or
brown skin color, while the skin of Caucasians has less melanin and is
In order to most effectively avoid overexposure,
a tan should be acquired gradually, according to the guidelines
prescribed by your salon professional. A sunburn, or erythema, occurs
when too much ultraviolet light reaches the skin and disrupts the tiny
blood vessels near the skin's surface.
Why does a tan fade? Cells in the epidermis'
getinitiative layer (also called the living epidermis) are constantly
reproducing and pushing older cells upward toward the horny layer (dead
epidermis), where they are sloughed off in about one month. As your skin
replaces its cells, the cells laden with melanin are removed. So the
tanning process must continue with the new cells.
Why Redder Isn't Better
Many people grow up thinking that if they don't
experience a slight red or pinkish tinge after they tan that they didn't
"get anything." The truth is that the red or pinkish tinge you see is
actually sunburn (or erythema)-your skin's worst enemy. The fact is that
the sunburns we experience due to lack of information when we are
growing up are the very things that lead to skin damage later in life.
Smart tanners know that the key to avoiding
sunburn is moderation in terms of UV exposure. The best way to ensure a
"smart tan" is to take advantage of the years of research that have gone
into tanning equipment to provide you with a controlled, predictable
dosage of UV light. Also, use lotions to moisturize your skin before
tanning and, if you do tan outdoors, remember that the sun emits
whatever types of UV rays it wants. Several other environmental factors
come into play with outdoor UV light, making exposure unpredictable.
Don't rely on the color of your skin to tell you
when to get out of the sun. Overexposure isn't evident sometimes until
hours after the suits gone down. It's better to use a sunscreen and to
wear protective clothing than to risk overexposure which can lead to