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How Does Your Skin Tan

Whether you tan outdoors under the sun or tan indoors in a professional tanning salon, the tanning process is the same. This natural process takes place when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet light. Here is an overview.

Light is composed of energy waves that travel from the sun to the Earth. Light can be broken into three general categories: infrared, visible and invisible. Ultraviolet light is in the invisible light spectrum.

There are three kinds of ultraviolet light: UVA, UVB and UVC. Two of those categories, UVA and UVB, are used in indoor tanning equipment.

Indoor tanning equipment is designed to replicate UVA and UVB produced by the sun, but tanning lamps emit the light in carefully controlled and government-regulated combination's. As a result, the user has control over their exposure. That’s why people face greater risk of overexposure tanning outdoors than they do by using indoor tanning equipment.

Tanning itself takes place in the skin’s outermost layer, the epidermis. There are three major types of skin cells in your epidermis: basal cells, keratinocytes and melanocytes. All play different roles in the tanning process.

Everyone has roughly the same number of melanocytes in their bodies—about 5 million. Your heredity determines how much pigment your melanocytes can produce. Melanocytes release extra melanosomes whenever ultraviolet light waves touch them. This produces a tan in your skin.

The tanning process is your skin’s natural way of protecting itself from sunburn and overexposure. Calling a tan “damage to the skin” isn’t telling the whole story. Your skin is designed to tan to protect itself.

 

 

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