Does sun tan protect your skin?

Once your skin is bronzed, can you leave the sun screen to one side?

The summer brings with it strappy tops, sleeveless dresses and chic swimsuits, and you're probably already at work on your tan. Hopefully you haven't forgotten the importance of starting off gradually and using the right factor sun screen lotion. But what happens once you've achieved that longed-for tan? Too often those who've got a tan or who have naturally dark skins think this is an excuse to waive the precautions. But that's really not a good idea.

It's true that a suntan is the body's natural mechanism to protect skin from solar radiation. But it's simply not enough. The melanin-producing cells generate a dark screen – a tan – that protects us from sunburn caused by UVB rays. But that's only one of the dangers, and it doesn't protect us from the more insidious damage caused by UVA rays. Unnoticed, these rays pierce through to the deeper layers of the skin and destroy the collagen and elastin, causing aging.

So even if your skin is tastefully toasted, it's wise to go on using sun cream, though you may choose one with a lower spf. Not only will it help to protect from UVA rays, but your skin will be better moisturised, the tan will last longer and, in the long term, there's less risk of wrinkles and blemishes.

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