Play it smart during National Healthy Skin Month

Tanning for “a look” is a fairly recent trend, and it has never been a universally accepted ideal — certainly never accepted as a healthy ideal.

Around the world, cultural standards dictate the “look” that is considered ideal. In Europe, North America and Brazil, the tan, sleek look is popular with both men and women, whereas in Asia, women want to look fairer and pink in tone and both men and women in India use fairness creams to lighten their complexions.

Throughout the ages, people from many cultures — including the ancient Egyptians, Japanese, Chinese and Europeans — used whitening powders and potions to whiten their skin and they stayed out of the sun in order to retain youthful, plump and light skin tones. To be dark meant that one had to work in the fields or in other outdoor jobs and become tanned. So to be light in complexion was a stamp of wealth.

However, in the 1920s, Coco Chanel popularized the idea of tanning as an indicator that one was wealthy and could relax and enjoy the leisure of sun bathing. Then, in 1927, a product was developed to help people avoid sun burning. And in 1934, Ambre Solaire was developed so that people could go sailing without getting burned and yet still get the tan. This was the start of a company that would eventually become L’Oreal.

Just as pale skin had been the mark of privilege in bygone years, from the 1960s onward a tan has marked leisure time and travel as well as physical fitness and good health by association.

The first artificial tanning machine — the Man Tan — hit the market in 1959, and by the 1980s and 1990s the tanning bed industry was well established in the U.S.

We know that 90 percent of all skin cancers are associated with exposure to the sun’s UV radiation which is also linked to eye damage, immune system depression and up to 90 percent of the changes to the skin most commonly associated with aging, such as wrinkles, brown spots and tough, leathery looking skin.

A study completed in 2012 noted an alarming rise in melanoma in young people aged 18 to 39 over the past 40 years. Although lifetime risk for melanoma is 1.5 times higher for men than it is for women, this study noted an 800 percent increased rate for young women and a 400 percent increased rate in men. In this study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the greater rate and alarming increase was directly attributable to the use of tanning beds. Researchers noted that the tanning beds cause a 74 percent increase in developing melanoma, 2.5 percent increase in the rate of squamous cell carcinoma, and 1.5 percent increased risk of basal cell carcinoma. For golfers, it is notable that men over the age of 40 have the highest annual exposure to UV radiation, and that is not coming from tanning bed usage.

Golf early, or late, either before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. in order to play it safe.

Here are some frightening stats. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. One person dies of melanoma every hour. Your risk for developing melanoma doubles if you have had more than five sunburns. Regular use of a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher reduces the risk of melanoma by 50 percent, and people who used tanning beds before the age of 35 have increased their risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent.

Here are some things that are prudent to do to reduce your risk. Cover up with clothing while in the sun. Wear-big brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses. Use a broad spectrum UVA and UVB sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. If you are outside for long periods of time and you are sweating, use a waterproof one with SPF of 30 or better. Sunscreen should be re-applied every two hours. Keep your babies out of the sun. If your little ones are outside a lot, put sunscreen on them. Examine your body head to toe every month for changes to your skin and see a physician annually for a thorough skin examination.

Although the incidence of melanoma is skyrocketing, death from the disease among young people is decreasing due to earlier diagnosis. Generally, people are becoming more aware of the dangers of UV radiation and there are better diagnostic methods available today than in the past. Let us all embrace and protect the natural color of our skin, whatever it may be, and not be concerned with the latest “look” or style.

Let’s strive to be healthy and glowing naturally rather artificially, whitened from powder or potions or tanned from the sun or machine.

Here’s what I use on my skin to shield it from the rays. You can get it like I do at


Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at, 212-1451 or


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