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South Texas Living

Healthy Living: Just one pre-prom tan can be dangerous

Healthy Living: Just one pre-prom tan can be dangerous

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March 27, 2013
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Teenagers tempted to head to the tanning salon before prom should think twice: Just one indoor tanning session per year in high school or college boosts the risk of developing potentially deadly melanoma by 20 percent, and each additional session during the same year raises this risk almost another 2 percent. The risk of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), a common non-melanoma skin cancer, increases by 25 percent after only one to two indoor tanning sessions. The risk soars to 73 percent after six or more sessions.

A young melanoma survivor shares her regrets:

Chelsea Price was just 23 years old when she was diagnosed with Stage III melanoma. The Virginia native tanned indoors as a teenager before vacations and special events, including prom. Since her diagnosis, Price’s treatment has included several invasive surgeries, which have left her with multiple scars on her neck and back. Although she is currently cancer-free, Price diligently continues to have skin checks, CT scans, and treatments every three months.

Tips for Sunless Tanning

The Skin Cancer Foundation has always recommended that women embrace their natural skin tone. However, those who can’t resist the bronzed look but won’t sacrifice their health to achieve it should consider sunless UV-free tanners. Sunless tanners effectively produce an even “tanned” look without causing skin damage. The days of unsightly orange streaks are over; new self-tanners are easier than ever to apply and more capable of providing natural-looking color. They are available in many different formulations, including creams, lotions, gels, pump sprays, aerosols, and wipes. For best results, consider these tips:

•Prep your skin. Exfoliate skin with a scrub or loofah and follow up with a moisturizer to ensure even application.

•Follow the package directions closely. For example, wait at least 12 hours after shaving to apply (to avoid dark spots in hair follicles) and don’t use on skin with active eczema.

•Be patient. Self-tanners can take 30-60 minutes to produce visible color on the skin, and this color typically lasts about five days.

•Repeat as necessary. Generally, the product should be reapplied daily for two to three days, until the desired shade is achieved. Then, reapply about three times a week to maintain the shade.

•Go to a pro. Professional spray tans are an option for those who want to safely achieve a bronzed look in a hurry. Many salons provide automated application of high concentration, no-rub, aerosolized non-UV tanning products, while others provide a customized airbrush tan. When receiving a professional spray tan, wear protective gear for the mouth, eyes, and nose to prevent ingestion or inhalation.

•Don’t rely on sunless tanners for sun protection. Even if your self-tanner contains sunscreen, reapply a separate broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every two hours when outdoors. Note that sunscreen is not the only form of sun protection. The Skin Cancer Foundation has always recommended that everyone follow a complete sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade and covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, in addition to daily sunscreen use.

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