That sun-kissed suntan color gives a healthy look to your skin, as long as you’re protecting it from the damaging rays. Sun gives us vitamin D and being exposed to the sun in proper protected doses is a good thing.
A long hot summer spent at the beach or by the pool can result in a nice, deep suntan. But can a suntan be permanent? No, it can’t. It won’t last forever, so enjoy it while it lasts.
Believe it or not, your body was designed to accept pigmentation in normal, healthy doses. Your skin has a lot of functions as the largest organ of your body. It’s not just to protect your inner organs but to also protect the skin itself which is composed of many layers. Your suntan has a lot to do with the layers of your skin.
If you’re tired of your suntan, there are things you can do to fade it away faster, or you can be patient and let time take its course. Keep reading and you’ll find out more about suntans, how they happen, and what you can do to fade them faster if you really want them to!
What’s a tan?
Sure, from the outside looking in, you know that a tan is when your skin deepens in color from exposure to the sun (or even a tanning bed, which honestly isn’t a healthy way to achieve your glow). But there’s a science behind tanning.
Your skin tans up because it’s protecting itself. As the largest organ of your body, the skin has to defend itself from environmental aggressors. One of the biggest of those aggressors of course is the sun and those antagonizing UV rays. Your skin is predesigned to handle this sun exposure and has a full system in place that rivals the efficiency of those fast-pass systems at all major theme parks.
These are the different skin layers:
- There’s a bottom layer of your skin in the epidermis (that’s the outer layer) called the basal layer.
- The basal layer has cells in it called melanocytes that create melanin, that pigment that makes your skin color.
- The melanocytes are mixed throughout the skin, composing around 1% of it. They bring parcels of melanin to the other cells in your skin to protect it.
- They form over the nucleus to block UV radiation and absorb some excess rays.
You should know though that just because skin has this built-in defense system doesn’t mean that it’s fully capable of stopping mutations in your skin cells’ DNA. The UV rays these days are intense and without adding more protection through SPF products, you leave yourself vulnerable to skin diseases.
The coolest thing about melanocytes is that they are drawn to UV radiation. They detect it and produce melanin. Research even shows that they can almost see what’s going on, much like how the retina of an eye works when detecting changes in the surrounding light. Once it detects the UV radiation, it begins producing melanin almost instantly to provide protection.
Darker skin of course has more pigment. But those with darker skin still have the same amount of melanocytes in the skin. If you have darker skin, that means that you’re no safer from the sun than those with fairer skin. Everyone should protect themselves accordingly.
Now that we’ve covered some science, let’s get back to the issue at hand. A suntan can’t be permanent because your skin sheds. It has nothing to do with the melanocytes. Those are merely there to trigger the smart-function feature of your skin and try to protect you.
Keep reading and you’ll find out more about how your tan fades over time when you stop exposing it to UV rays.
Here’s how a tan fades?
Some people want the look of an endless summer but without keeping a suntan up, it will fade. As mentioned, it’s got nothing to do with those melanocytes and has everything to do with the lifecycle of skin cells.
Every day, your skin is shedding around one million skin cells. That’s a lot of cells! But it’s a natural process, much like the others in your body that allow it to naturally detox, renew, and refresh.
Your outside layer of skin replaces itself monthly, about every 28 to 30 days. The cells on the surface by design are made to flake off as time marches by. New skin cells are grown in your bottom layers. The ones on the surface were once new but are actually dead. Weird, right?
Those outer skin cells are really just fat and protein which is for protecting us from the sun and other environmental antagonists. This nonliving cell matter contains melanin which then absorbs some of that UV radiation.
The key takeaway here is “some” of the UV radiation. Again, you might be covered with these cells that work to protect you, but it isn’t enough for long-term and daily exposure. Always use sun protection to keep your skin healthy, whether you want to keep your suntan, or you want it to fade away.
Meanwhile, beneath the surface, your healthy skin cells are growing and thriving. They eventually mature and prepare to move to the surface of your skin. As they do, they create keratin which is a bit of a waterproof and porous wonder. It’s in your nails and hair, and animals also have keratin formations in the form of hooves, claws, beaks, and other things.
When those new skin cells are created, they send the old ones out toward the surface which takes about a month to occur. So, the skin you see as you look down at your arm in horror now is really just composed of dead scales, for lack of a better word. It’s truly extraordinary what the human body does.
Why you can’t lose your tan
The reason you might not be losing your tan is because you keep exposing yourself to the sun. If you live in a tropical environment and are outside often, it will be much harder for your tan to fade. If you swim or run outdoors, expect to have a darker tone to your skin from the exposure.
If you’re sick of being tanned and want your complexion to restore to its usual fairer color, you should stay out of the sun as much as humanly possible. When you need to be outdoors, you should use proper sun protection to keep your skin from pigmenting. SPF products that are designed to block the UV rays will be best if you don’t want any more hint of a tan. Make sure you reapply it often. Experts suggest applying SPF every hour and 20 minutes to two hours, though the sooner you reapply, the better.
Hats and protective clothing are also advised. There are clothes that are designed to block out UV rays that are worth buying if you’re serious about protecting your skin. These items are especially helpful for those that work outdoors. Even if you work indoors though, the American Academy of Dermatology says you can still be exposed to UV rays in the most discreet ways.
For example, if you’re on a plane, you can get that exposure through the windows on a daytime flight. If your office is next to a window, or you sit in your car on the freeway commuting to work, you’re still getting sun exposure. You might not need the same sports or waterproof formulas you’d use if you were going to actively engage in activities outdoors, but you should always protect your skin from the sun no matter what!
How to speed up the fading process of a suntan
Suntans definitely aren’t permanent, but they will last longer if you keep exposing yourself to the sun. If you’d like to fade your tan, follow these tips!
– Make sure you exfoliate
Exfoliating is good for your skin from head to toe to help shed the dull exterior layer and speed up cell renewal. Avoiding the sun after you exfoliate is best unless you want to prolong your suntan. There’s no need to use anything harsh. A gentle exfoliant like this one by M3 Naturals is best to help slough off dead skin cells.
You can make your own gentle exfoliant with items from your own kitchen or you can buy one. The key is to choose something with ingredients that won’t be harsh on your skin. Overdoing it with exfoliation can lead to skin damage.
– Try lightening products
You can always try a skin lightening product too if you want to speed your complexion along back to a fairer one. Skin lightening products once were prescription but you can find them over the counter. You should look for glycolic acid, vitamin C, any retinoid (like tretinoin, retinol, tazarotene, or adapalene gel), azelaic acid, or kojic acid.
These ingredients are proven to have skin lightening benefits. It’s not advisable to use all these ingredients though. Seek out products that contain one of these skin lighteners or you could severely irritate your skin, Jack Black is a great glycolic acid treatment that will erase your dark spots and help even out your complexion.
If you have dark spots, skin lightening products can be great too. Dark spots often form on the hands and face after much unprotected sun exposure. Typically, they occur as you age, but if you don’t take care of your skin, you’ll see them much earlier than that.
As a result, skin spots can make you look much older. If you see them on your hands and face, a lightening product with one of the above-mentioned ingredients can help fade your complexion and virtually erase them away.
For tans, it’s best to try exfoliating and staying away from the sun. Your tan will soon fade away, but if any dark spots persist, it might be wise to consult your dermatologist about lightening treatments. Sunspots aren’t dangerous, but most women want to fade them away to keep up a youthful and pure appearance.
One important thing to remember with using lightening products though is that using it on large areas or overusing it period can lead to skin atrophy which has the opposite effect you’re intending it to have. In other words, it could make those dark spots worse or discolor patches of skin that you had no problems with.
A suntan is never permanent or forever. If you’d like it to last longer, you should certainly keep it up, though never do so without protecting yourself. Even a short amount of unprotected sun exposure can lead to major skin damage. When that happens, you’re at a major risk for diseases like skin cancer.
If you want your tan to fade though, the good news is that it will easily do so in about a month. You can encourage your skin to renew and refresh more quickly by staying out of the sun, protecting your sun from UV rays, exfoliating your skin, and seeing if a skin lightening product works for you.
We can’t stress enough though that the damage from irresponsible tanning can last a lifetime. It’s fun and relaxing to sit by the pool or beach, but it will be just as much fun if you take the time to prepare your skin and care for it. When you get a sunburn, the damage is already done. Set a timer on your phone to remind you when to reapply your sun protection. And if you genuinely don’t want your skin to tan, get clothing that blocks UV rays from penetrating the fabric to keep fully guarded from head to toe. It will be well worth it when you can go out in the sun and enjoy the beauty of the day without worrying that those UV rays are aging you prematurely!