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How to Reverse Skin Damage From Tanning Beds

Let’s admit it: in our 20’s, sun-roasting ourselves to a crisp seems “fun” when we feel invincible. As for the prospect of wrinkles and leathery skin, it sounds more like a far-off myth than a reality — until we hit our 30’s. It’s only once you start seeing the signs of skin damage, you realize all those SPF warnings were right. But is it too late to recover? Although sun damage is never completely reversible (without surgery), it is improvable with skin care.

The truth is that the more time you spent in tanning beds or direct sunlight in your younger years, the higher the debt your skin will pay later on. So if you’re a recovering tanning addict who didn’t use SPF in the past, your skin has a long road of rehabilitation ahead. Here’s everything you should know about how to reverse sun damage from tanning beds, according to top industry experts.

Skin damage from tanning beds

It’s hard to deny that tanned skin looks great. With that copper-toned glow, your body can look leaner and stretch marks become less visible. While a couple of yearly sunbed sessions won’t necessarily cause excessive long-term damage, if you abuse the ritual, you’ll see all sorts of nasty side effects down the road.

The effects of tanning on the skin

Many people often think that because tanning beds are just a “quickie session”, they’re less harmful. It’s not true. “An average 30 minutes in a sunbed gives you the same dose of UVA rays as a day at the beach,” says Christine Sugars, a spokesperson for the Imperial Cancer Research Fund.

“UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply, damaging the elastin (which keeps the skin supple) and collagen (which maintains the skin’s thickness) in the skin’s middle layer, causing sagging and wrinkles,” says Christine. UVB rays, on the other hand, affect the skin differently. “UVB rays affect the top layer of the skin, the epidermis, and also the melanocyte cells, to produce brown pigment,” she explains.

“Apart from premature skin aging, people who use sunbeds more than 20 sessions of 30 minutes per year run the risk of developing skin fragility, “ says Dr. Julia Newton Bishop, consultant dermatologist At St. James University Hospital in Leeds. “The skin becomes thin with a transparent texture and it bruises and blisters easily.” And that’s not all. 

How to Reverse Skin Damage From Tanning Beds

According to the FDA, unprotected UV exposure can result in “photoaging”: a condition when skin becomes leathery, wrinkled, and hyperpigmented.

Can you reverse skin damage from tanning beds?  

Asking how to reverse skin damage from tanning beds is never a straight-forward question. According to LA-based Celebrity Dermatologist, Dr. Harold Lancer, “Reversible means, medically speaking, you can't totally repair DNA. You can repair sun damage, you can reduce sun damage, but the skin will always have a permanent memory that it was abused.”

To fix the problem, there are two routes you can go: non-surgical procedures or natural skin care (along with health maintenance). For those who prefer a less invasive method, here are the safest options for reversing sun damage.

How to reverse skin damage from tanning beds

From holistic health routines to cosmetic treatments, here are some common measures for improving your skin after overusing tanning beds.

Use a Vitamin C serum

There’s a reason virtually every skincare brand has its own vitamin C serum — it’s among the most promising topical healing remedies out there. When properly formulated, it can help deliver nutrients to the dermis to boost circulation, fade dark spots and improve hydration.

Dr. Marnie Nussbaum, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, recommends a skin serum with vitamin C as the go-to antioxidant ingredient. “It works very well in combination with vitamin E to protect against free radical damage which can cause skin cancers and collagen breakdown leading to fine lines,” she explains. Free radicals are unstable particles released by UV rays, which cause cellular decay. To combat these effects, vitamin C acts like a restorative shield to neutralize these invaders, protecting our collagen and fading discoloration.

Wear SPF lotion

Preventing sun damage is easier than reversing it. Every day, you should be protecting your skin with a full-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB.

But not all SPF lotions are made equally. This fact is important to learn in our current beauty conscious culture where people care about using safer natural formulas. 

EMK Guard Sunscreen

To help you make an informed choice, let’s talk about why more people are opting for mineral sunscreens over chemical ones.

Detox Lifestyle

And finally, drink water often. Staying hydrated helps your body eliminate toxins, leaving you with a refreshed and vibrant complexion.

Mineral sunscreen vs chemical sunscreen

Mineral formulas are made with gentler UV-blockers. As Dr. Lancer explains, “Mineral sunscreens are physical sunscreens, which means that they actually physically reflect or deflect both ultraviolet and visible light from the skin's surface.” Like a bullet-proof vest, it acts as a physical block to deflect light. “A chemical sunscreen, you have chemicals that actually absorb the photons or the components of light and dissipate their reactive oxygen species or rusting effect of light,” says Dr. Lancer.

He also emphasizes the importance of layering sunscreen. This step matters because the sunscreen must fully absorb into the stratum corneum (outer skin layer) in order for it to stay and become active. “That's why sunscreen has to be applied at least a half hour before light exposure”, says Dr. Lancer. “For the average young woman on the go, you polish, rinse, cleanse, rinse, you put on the sunscreen, nourish, and that's the order it should be in. If you put on sunscreen after your nourishing agent or makeup, it's useless.”

Try a detox lifestyle

Healthy skin demands a healthy diet. Yet, oddly enough, there always seem to be those lucky few who can break these beauty rules and still look incredible: they eat whatever they want, they stay up late, they drink alcohol — you name it. Don’t follow their example. These rare unicorns are an anomaly — most of us can’t live this way and still have beautiful skin.

Just take it from Dr. Lancer who counsels his celebrity clients on the importance of clean eating as they key to an anti-aging lifestyle. “Eat organic,” he says. Conventionally raised and manufactured foods often contain growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and other chemicals that can cause free radicals in our skin. “This can negatively influence the antioxidant management system of the body and lead to more rapid aging through the destruction of collagen, elastic tissue, and the skin matrix,” he explains.

 Plus, you should eat lots of veggies. They infuse your skin with antioxidants that protect your skin from free radicals. 

About The Author: Rachel Esco is an educator and consultant in advanced cosmetics who empowers consumers to make informed choices about skin care. With a profound interest in beauty and biochemistry, her articles explore the latest breakthroughs in epigenetics and anti-aging technologies. Rachel is also a passionate advocate for the Beauty Conscious Movement, promoting the use of environmentally safe materials to create a zero waste culture.

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