“The dogma, now fossilized in print, is that any tan is a sign of skin damage. Tell that to Darwin. Pigmented melanocytes in the skin are a system that protects it from excessive UV, which evolved long before the advent of sunscreens. Even if there was hard evidence that melanoma was UV-induced it would be all the more important to keep a protective tan,” says Dr. Sam Shuster, professor of dermatology at Newcastle University in England.
Tanning is your body’s natural protection against sunburn — it is what your body is designed to do. Dermatology industry representatives myopically have referred to this process as “damage” to your skin, but calling a tan “damage” is a dangerous oversimplification. Here is why:
Calling a tan damage to your skin is like calling exercise damage to your muscles. Consider, when one exercises you are actually tearing tiny muscle fibers in your body. On the surface, examined at the micro-level, that could be called “damage.” But that damage on the micro-level is your body’s natural way on the macro-level of building stronger muscle tissue. So to call exercise “damaging” to muscles would be terribly deceiving.
The same can be said of sun exposure: Your body is designed to repair damage to the skin caused by ultraviolet light exposure. Developing a tan is its natural way to protect against the dangers of sunburn and further exposure.
In other words: Saying that any ultraviolet light exposure causes skin damage and therefore should be avoided is misleading and inaccurate. It would be like saying that since water causes drowning, humans should avoid all water. Yes, water causes drowning, but our bodies also need water. Regular daily exposure to water is not dangerous – indeed, we would die without it. Similarly, we need sun exposure; we would die without it.
It is the professional indoor tanning industry’s position that sunburn prevention is a more effective message than total abstinence, which ultimately encourages abuse. It is a responsible, honest approach to the issue.