Stop it. You're going to turn into an orange peel. Sometimes a little shock treatment is what it takes.
I show this photo to clients that still tan. I say, "This is a truck driver that drove for decades. The left half of his face looks 30 years older than the right side. Melanoma is found on the left side of the face far more often." I think, "the left half of his face looks like a burnt marshmallow, and if you keep going like this, you'll look like this." They're always full of excuses.
"But I just like to be dark!"
You can be as dark as you want! Try a foam self tanner that's brown instead of orange. Bronzing powder. Airbrush tanning. There are tons of products available to try.
This genius side by side comparison usually wakes them up from their delusion that they have a "healthy tan."
This makes me recoil in horror. This is the type of damage that happens when you're the "I don't burn, I just tan easily! I need a different foundation shade in the summer!" type of person. You won't see as much hyperpigmentation- the "freckles," or "sun spots," what some people mistakenly call "age spots", whichever term you prefer, but you'll see the sagging, the lines, the bumpy texture, and the look of a dehydrated grapefruit. Looking like leather is never pretty.
If you burn more easily than you tan, but go outside without sunscreen anyway, trying to "not be pasty," or "just get a little bit of color," you'll get all of the sagging, texture problems, and lines, plus a frightening amount of spotting. This is more dangerous.
"But I don't have freckles! My skin looks fine!"
It won't happen overnight, but it's going to happen. Even if you don't see spots on your face now, if you look at your skin under a Wood's lamp or blacklight, you'll be able to see all of the damage that has started. The more you tan, the darker these spots get. Dark color grabs sunlight easier than light colors, so spots get darker faster than unspotted skin. Lights like this help you see your "future" skin if you keep doing the same things.
In regular light, the skin looks only slightly unevenly toned, but underneath the skin you can see the residual, cumulative damage. The burn-to-tan method is the most dangerous. Even if your skin is red for only a few days before it turns to a tan, you have still absorbed far too many UVA and UVB rays and damaged your skin. Skin creates a tan to protect the DNA of your cells from mutating. Mutations cause cancer.
You're probably not at this level yet, and hopefully you never will be, but every time you step outside or drive anywhere during the day without sunscreen on, you're getting one step closer to this.
"But I need Vitamin D!"
Only 10 minutes of sun exposure is needed to absorb the needed amount of Vitamin D. You can also eat some fish, drink some fortified dairy milk or almond milk, or take a vitamin. If you're really that health conscious about the proper amount of vitamins you should be getting, you should also be health conscious about how inflammation is the worst thing for every organ in your body, and the sun is the biggest source of inflammation we come in regular contact with.
"But it helps my acne!"
No, it really doesn't. Acne is caused by a combination of inflammation, excess sebum, hormones, digestive problems, and dead skin cells. When pores are clogged, p acnes bacteria grows in the bottom of the pore. It's true that UV light has an anti-bacterial effect, but it's temporary, and UV light increases inflammation, making sun exposure one step forward, two steps back. Oxygen also kills this bacteria, so simply unclogging the pores will have the same antibacterial effect without inflammation.
"Okay, I promise to stop tanning. So what do I do about damage I already have?"
It's very simple. Wear sunscreen. Religiously.
Okay, so it's really not that simple, but that's the most important part, and if you're not going to wear sunscreen, you're going to waste whatever other efforts you're making. All of the brightening and lighting serums, expensive peels, laser treatments and skin care in the world is not going to fix your sun damage if you just go right back into the sun and increase the damage again. This causes frustration and belief that the product doesn't work. I had a woman come into the store asking for products to help her dark spots because she likes going tanning a lot. I (barely) stopped myself from making the appalled little laugh of shock I'm prone to making when I hear atrocious things about what people are doing to their faces. I sold her sunscreen and self tanning foam instead of the expensive brightening skin care line because, well, baby steps are more feasible than leaping from mountain to mountain, and it was more important to get her out of the sun before trying to fix damage. Starting two new products is easier than starting six.
"Can you reverse sun damage entirely?"
Entirely, no. You can make some serious progress if you're determined enough. The skin will eventually cycle the excess melanin back into your body, once the inflammation "threat" is gone and it doesn't have to protect itself anymore. This process usually happens in the winter, when sun exposure is limited. By limiting sun exposure and stimulating the cell cycle this fading process can happen any time of year.
- Cleanse, Tone, Serum, Moisturize, morning and night with a skincare line based on brightening the skin. Vitamin C, Kojjic acid, licorice root, and mulberry root all ingredients that naturally brighten the skin.
- Use brighteners, not lighteners. Lighteners usually have bleaching agents, which can be dangerous and has the possibility of making spotting worse if used incorrectly. Brighteners even out spottiness and prevent tyrosinase production, which is the enzyme that produces melanin.
- Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. SPF 50, Broad spectrum, water resistant. Reapply often. Set an alarm on your phone when you're outside to remind yourself when to reapply.
- Exfoliate properly to keep the skin cycle up to speed. Don't use physical exfoliants on sensitive or damaged skin. Chemical peels can be very effective if done properly. Follow each exfoliating treatment with a moisturizing, hydrating mask.
- Don't over exfoliate. A raw face is an inflamed face, and inflammation can cause spots and damage even if it doesn't come from the sun.
Above all, be patient. Keep in mind that even though you might not see immediate improvements, you're keeping your skin from getting worse. It takes a lot of time to heal damage.
Do you want to be the old lady or old man that looks like leather? Or the old lady or old man that everyone guesses is 15 years younger than they actually are?
Need further proof? Look at celebrities who tanned too hard. Some of these photos aren't perfect comparisons, the lighting is too different in a few shots, but you can still definitely see the damage that tanning does to skin! Don't do it!
How often are you in the sun? Do you wear sunscreen every day? Post in the comments below!