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Monday, January 29, 2007

How Tanning Happens

Want to banish your pale skin in favor of a savage tan? Join the club. Especially when summer looms, many people start considering the best way to get that sun-bronzed glow — turning to self-tanners, tanning booths, a stretch in the sun, or a combination of these.
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To lots of people, summer means hanging out at the pool or the beach, soaking up rays and baking in the sun in pursuit of the perfect golden tan. Indeed, most Americans,
including up to 80% of people under age 25, think they look better with a tan.

But before you don your bathing suit and head to the pool — or into a tanning booth — spend a few minutes finding out about your skin and sun exposure. These facts can help you get the look you want without stressing your skin.

How Tanning Happens

The sun's rays contain two types of ultraviolet radiation that reach your skin: UVA and UVB. UVB radiation burns the upper layers of skin (the epidermis), causing sunburns.

UVA radiation is what makes people tan. UVA rays penetrate to the lower layers of the epidermis, where they trigger cells called melanocytes (pronounced: mel-an-oh-sites) to produce melanin. Melanin is the brown pigment that causes tanning.

Melanin is the body's way of protecting skin from burning. Darker-skinned people tan more deeply than lighter-skinned people because their melanocytes produce more melanin. But just because a person doesn't burn does not mean that he or she is also protected against skin cancer and other problems.

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