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Brown and Beautiful Another Addiction

Young woman in a tanning bed

The beautiful brown skin

That tanned skin can be considered very attractive, is undeniable, but what most people do not understand, is that tanning may actually constitute an addiction. Like smoking and drinking, research has recently revealed that the good feelings generated by exposure to the sun or the tanning booths produce a need for more. That sense of well-being and calm is tough to refuse in our stressed and anxious society. Habitual tanners crave that relaxation and mood enhancement; those who quit abruptly will experience symptoms of withdraw, which do tend to be more severe in youth. These addiction patterns have not however, been observed in the casual or infrequent tanner.

How the skin becomes brown from radiation

When the radiation from the sun or tanning bulbs, interacts with special cells in the skin, called melanocytes, a process of melanin production begins. That melanin is the pigment that results in tanned skin. It takes several days for the tan to appear as the melanocytes must begin production, and then eject the melanin for it to change the skin color. Humans all have the same number of melanocytes in their skin, but naturally dark skinned people just have more active melanocytes, and therefore more melanin.

During embryogenesis, or during the development of an embryo into an infant, we know that these melanocytes developed in the brain and migrated into the skin, thereby rendering our skin with its characteristic color. Since the cells producing pigment came from the brain, it stands to reason that activity within those cells would be able to communicate with our brain. Endorphins are neuroactive substances, stimulating parts of the brain that are responsible for a feeling of well being. This neurostimulation of melanin production is probably mediated by an endorphin like neurotransmitter from which we experience mild euphoric sensations.

The consequences of over tanning the skin

But we are facing a potentially harmful exposure to radiation in the ultraviolet spectrum, which may be damaging our skin, setting the stage for cancers, such as deadly as melanoma. Research has shown that skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are much more prominent in sun damaged skin. The deadliest skin cancer is melanoma; it is also more common in sun-exposed skin. Melanomas are difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat, so the best advise is to use extreme moderation in sun exposure and to use a sun screen of 30 block or more, applied every hour during sun exposure. Since tanning booths are largely unregulated, we don’t know what rays our skin is receiving. Our advise is to totally avoid tanning booths and to ensure that our children receive this important message.

Protect your skin

There are tanning lotions, which stain the skin to appear tanned. These lotions have improved over the years and have become easy to apply with natural effects. The popularity of the lotions has increased, so the cost has come down, making them largely affordable to anyone interested. They are safe and constitute an effective alternative to the damaging rays of the sun. Please bring your questions about sun screens, skin cancers, and skin care to our office or click our website with question, or call us 410-224-1144. We are waiting to help you to be the glowing, beautiful self you deserve.