This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

The Truth About Tanning This Summer

It's aging you prematurely.
There's nothing healthy about that glow.
Dphotographer via Getty Images
There's nothing healthy about that glow.

We all know that sunburn is bad for us, but did you know that even the healthiest looking tan is a sign of your skin in trauma?

Or that spending time in the sun causes your skin to age prematurely?

Turns out the 'healthy glow' associated with a tan isn't so healthy after all. So before you lather yourself up with oil and head into the sun this summer, here are a few things you should know.

Tanning increases your risk of cancer

"Essentially there's nothing healthy about a tan," Heather Walker, chair of Cancer Council Australia's national skin cancer committee told HuffPost Australia.

"Radiation from the sun is what damages skin cells, and this can add up over time and increase your risk of cancer.


"Tanning is a sign [the cells] are trying to fix themselves. They are in trauma and actually trying to protect themselves from more damage.

"A tan is a sign your skin is in trauma, but people still want to get one. It's kind of crazy when you think about it. It's like having a runny nose when you have a cold -- it's a sign of what's happening to your body. It's a similar kind of thing."

It causes your skin to age prematurely

"Sun exposure and sun damage is the main cause of aging of the skin. Most of the wrinkles and pigment spots and other changes that come up as you get older, in the main are because of sun exposure and sun damage," Dr Warren Weightman, spokesperson for the Australasian College of Dermatologists told HuffPost Australia.

So your 'laughter lines' don't really come from laughing?

"Laughing doesn't do it, no," Weightman said. "It's actually maybe a better message for young people -- particularly women who really want to keep on looking good -- that it's actually sun exposure that is making them age prematurely."

Tsk, tsk.
Tsk, tsk.

Sunscreen isn't enough

If you're reading this thinking, 'but I use SPF 30 so I'm fine', then you might want to think again.

"Some of the mistakes people make is over-relying on sunscreen," Walker said. "It's seen as this magic bullet or super armour and it's not the case.

"It's really important to address your sunscreen use. Apply it 20 minutes before you go outside. Apply every two hours, regardless of what it says on the label. Because companies have their sunscreen tried and tested in lab conditions but they aren't running around, sweating, towelling off.

"The amount to use is more than you think. The average adult requires seven tablespoons for adequate coverage."

Walker also recommends adhering to the five sun safety guidelines as outlined below.

Enjoy the sun safely

  1. Slip on clothing.
  2. Slop on broad spectrum sunscreen of 30+ or higher. Also make sure it's water resistant.
  3. Slap on a broad brim hat. Baseball caps do not offer enough protection.
  4. Seek shade.
  5. Slide on sunglasses to protect your eyes.

As for tanning oils that claim to have SPF in them? Forget about it.

"I've seen in the market some tanning oil with SPF," Walker said. "I would say that there is no such thing. It's a really contradictory term. You can't get a safe tan and protect yourself from skin cancer. To have a tanning oil with SPF in is a contradiction. Tan is sign of trauma."

Also get savvy about UV levels and the safe times to enjoy the great outdoors. You can do this by downloading the SunSmart app.

Sun damage occurs early (and it's irreversible)

"There's actually quite a long delay in terms of when sun damage occurs and when you can see the effects. As a teenager, if you're out there and getting a lot of sun, within ten years, or when you get into your early 30s, those sun damage changes can be coming out," Weightman told HuffPost Australia.

"I often see quite a delay in the aging effect but it does come out, in the neck particularly, for women in their 40s. We're talking redness, pigmentation. It's not a good look but once it comes out, you've had that sun damage there's nothing you can do about it.

"Of course yes, there are some treatments like laser and other things but they only improve the appearance, it doesn't go back to normal."

This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia. Certain site features have been disabled. If you have questions or concerns, please check our FAQ or contact