Fact or Myth? #17: “My burn fades into a tan”

PoolWe’ve all been there before. You’ve spent way too much time at the pool reading the new Stephanie Meyers book, hoping it will be as good as her last series (it’s not), when suddenly you realize what time it is. You’ve been out way too long. You know you’re probably going to burn, but it’s a small price to pay to the tanning gods for the beautiful bronze skin you’ll have afterwards (as long as you don’t peel!). ‘My tan will fade into a burn’ you promise yourself, as you put cocoa butter lotion on to thwart the peeling effect before it has even begun. You don’t peel (whew!), and days later you notice a brown color where the burn used to be. It worked! But how? Do burns fade into tans? You had a burn and now you have a tan! But what would’ve happened if you didn’t burn? Would you have gotten an even better tan, without the pain or skin damage?

Yes.

“Hogwash! My burn fades into a tan! I’ve seen it!”Well, what is a burn? Burning side-effects include the reddening and tenderness of the skin that accompanies the skin damage…a sign that the book you were reading on your tablet by the pool was just too good to put down and go in for. However, the reddness and tender skin has nothing to do with the tan. The redness is from blood rushing to the skin to help facilitate repairs. The bursting capillaries in the skin can be very painful as well and cause stinging. However, nothing about blood rushing, bursting capillaries, or redness is involved in the tanning process, a process which includes using amino acids to produce a protein pigment called Melanin, that then color the cells. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. The minute you burn (what’s called a Minimal Erythmal dose or MED) your body stops producing melanin in order to repair the skin. Instead of using nutrients in the skin to produce a tan, it uses those nutrients to repair skin damage instead, thus lessening the tan you could’ve gotten. So, in essence, a burn stops the tanning process.

So why the tan afterwards then? The simple answer is damage. The brown skin you are seeing is not a normal tan (produced by Melanin which is a naturally dark anti-oxidant and pigment), but rather a dry damaged layer of skin on top of healthy skin. Skin that is overly dry from damage appears darker. This is what we refer to as the leathery look. Dry, damaged skin.The difference between a grape and a raisin, or a pig and a pigskin (football). The tan you see after a burn is actually just dehydrated skin. You can tell as the color doesn’t last very long and doesn’t look like a normal tan that is flush with natural melanin that requires hydration to flourish in the skin. You are only seeing dehydrated skin.

The burn that fades into a tan has become a myth due to the fact that, for most, perception is reality. However, a person who uses good lotions and builds their color gradually will have vastly better skin, deeper color tans, more natural color, and tans that last much much longer.

So skip the baby oil, turn off your iPad, and go inside before it gets too late. Never burn and take care of your skin and you’ll have the tan of your life!

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