Resources for parents of at-risk and troubled teens.



January 2010


by Staff, on damage skin, exposed, exposure, health, high, light, melanin, rays, safe, skin, skin cancer, tanning, ultra violet rays, violet rays

More and more people are becoming conscious of how they look and as such tried the wide array of cosmetic products and techniques that the market has to offer. Among important aspects of looks that people are concerned about is the skin tone and shade. It is believed that certain levels of exposure to the sun or ultraviolet rays is capable of producing a beautiful dark shade on the skin, a procedure generally called tanning.

The sun produces two types of ultraviolet rays i.e. UV-A and UV-B.  The difference between the two is in their wavelengths and penetration ability where UV-A penetrates deeper layers of the skin while the latter only penetrates the superficial skin layers. Tanning can be done under direct sunlight or under UV-lamps that emit both types of ultraviolet rays.

The rationale behind tanning lies in the skin’s reaction to the UV rays. The skin detects these rays as injurious and therefore reacts in self defense by producing the dark pigment melanin that is meant to reflects and prevent further penetration of the rays into the skin. It is this pigment that is responsible for the skin color of various racial groups the world over.

However, exposure to high levels of UV rays has been characterized to cause varying degrees of damage to the skin. The commonest is sun burns that affect even people whose intention was not to tan but stayed too exposed to sunlight. Experts recommend that if one anticipates to be exposed to the sun even for a short duration of time, they should use skin products with high Sun Protection Factor (SPF). More information on sunscreens can be found at

On the mention of dangers of tanning, many other conditions are directly as a result of exposure to UV-light. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has documented them intheirwebsite: ProductsandProcedures /Tanning/default.htm. These include skin cancer, accelerated skin ageing and eye damage. Skin cancer can be squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma which is an overreaction of the skin to UV-rays where melanin producing cells divide uncontrollably.

A group of people that should particularly be careful with exposure to ultra violet rays are teenagers, children and the youth. Most young people think that they are not prone to skin cancer yet exposure of the rapidly dividing skin cells at these ages is a high risk factor to getting skin cancer. Even if the actual damage does not manifest immediately, they will most likely encounter the problem as they grow older.

For this reason as much as possible, young people should avoid exposure of any form to ultra violet rays. In fact some states are considering laws to ban those under age 18 from using tanning beds. And many states now have laws that require minors to have a parent’s consent or be accompanied by a parent to the tanning facility.

FDA has also noted that tanning equipment being used commercially all over the country do not conform to its safety standards. The UV- emitters could be emitting higher than the safe levels of the rays whereas the techniques of tanning may be beyond safe exposure limits for instance tanning each day in a week instead of a recommended three days a week.

Before deciding that tanning is the way to go, it is good to find out what it is all about so that you make an informed opinion. More information on tanning effects is available at the world health organization info site Staff