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Skin Tan: Causes, Types & Sun Tan Removal Methods

Imagine spending time outside on a beautiful morning when the sun’s out, sounds good right? Not when you’re a skincare junkie! For many of us, spending time out equals tanning. Does this mean no bright, sunny days for us? Absolutely not, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about tanning, ranging from causes and prevention, all the way to how to remove tanning.

Tanning is the discoloration of the skin due to various reasons, the most common one being sun exposure. Tanning is a result of accumulation of melanin in the skin which is produced as a result of sun exposure.

Tanning is the natural response generated by the skin cells when they come in contact with the UV radiation in the sunlight. Sunlight is composed of UVA and UVB radiation. UVA radiation can go deeper into the skin, from the protective layer to the dermis. UVA causes tanning by oxidising existing melanin which leads to a darker appearance of the skin. UVB on the other hand, triggers Melanogenesis, when it comes in contact with the skin cells.

The easiest way to tell if you have a tan is by examining your complexion. If you notice that you are a shade or two darker than your usual skin tone, it’s likely that you are tanned. Dullness, patchiness and uneven skin tone are some other possible symptoms of sun damage. Darker skin tones tan easily as compared to lighten skin tones. If you have a lighter skin tone, your skin may burn and turn red instead of tanning when exposed to the sun.

According to the Fitzpatrick scale which was devised by Harvard dermatologist Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, tanning can be of various types based on your skin type-

  • Type I- Very light or pale skin which sunburns easily but tans occasionally. This type of skin doesn’t tan easily.
  • Type II- Light skin which sunburns usually and tans sometimes. The tan on this skin type is barely visible.
  • Type III- Light intermediate skin which rarely sunburns and usually tans resulting in a slightly darker appearance of the skin.
  • Type IV- Dark intermediate skin which sunburns rarely and tans often. The tan appears as a medium brown colour on the skin.
  • Type V- Dark skin type, often perceived as “brown” which does not sunburn and sometimes darkens as a result of tanning. Tanning is significantly visible in this skin type.
  • Type VI- Very dark skin type, often perceived as “black”, it does not sun burn either. This skin type tans easily but is naturally black-brown.

The simplest way to prevent tanning is by avoiding the sun. It’s essential to use protective clothing, hats and umbrellas to minimise exposure to sunlight. Another important thing is to always wear sunscreen with good SPF and a PA factor to protect against harmful UV rays. A sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and a PA factor of +++ is considered good. It’s also best to try and avoid sunlight as much as possible when the sun’s at its strongest.

With the scalding hot summers almost here, everyone’s been dreaming of kicking back and relaxing in the pool. But what about sun damage? Here are some ways you can cool off in the pool without having to worry about tanning-

  • The best way to prevent tanning while swimming is by using a good sunscreen.. Ensure that you use a sunscreen that’s water-resistant with a minimum of SPF 30 and constantly reapply throughout the day. 
  • If you’re swimming outdoors, avoid swimming when the sun’s at its strongest in the afternoon. 
  • Try to wear protective clothing to prevent sun damage.
  • Keep in mind that sunscreen is not an infallible method to prevent sun damage, sunscreen wears off after a few hours, quicker while swimming, leaving your skin vulnerable to the skin again. It’s important to reapply your sunscreen constantly to ensure sun protection.
  • Using skin lightening ingredients: Ingredients such as Glycolic Acid, Kojic Acid, and Vitamin C etc. have been proven to lighten the skin and thus will help remove tanning.
  • Exfoliation: Although exfoliation is ineffective against tanning caused due to sun exposure, it can work on the surface level and cause the skin to appear brighter by removing a layer of dead skin and debris over the skin.
  • Using bleaching ingredients: Using skin bleaching ingredients, such as hydroquinone, can lighten the skin. Hydroquinone works by reducing the number of melanin-producing cells. 
  • Microdermabrasion: It is a non-invasive cosmetic procedure which involves the removal of the outermost epidermal layer. 
  • Laser treatments: This is another cosmetic procedure, which involves the use of a specialised laser to break down the pigment in the skin, causing the skin to appear slighter.

Alpha Arbutin is a tyrosinase inhibitor, which means it inhibits tyrosinase and prevents Melanogenesis. It prevents tanning and treats hyperpigmentation by interfering with the production of melanin.

  • Vitamin C 

Vitamin C is a skin lightening ingredient which effectively gets rid of tanning, hyperpigmentation and dark spots. Moreover, Vitamin C is shown to have sun-damage protection as well. So, not only does it remove tanning, it prevents it to some extent as well. 

  • Kojic Acid

Kojic Acid can remove tanning as it penetrates into the deeper layers of the skin and inhibits Melanogenesis, i.e., the synthesis of melanin. 

  • Glycolic Acid

Glycolic Acid is an AHA, which works by sloughing away dead skin cells making the face look brighter. But, there’s a catch, using Glycolic Acid regularly can make your skin sensitive to sunlight, meaning you’d be more prone to tanning. So, it’s important to use sunscreen and avoid exposure to direct sunlight as much as possible while using Glycolic Acid. 

  • Azelaic Acid

Azelaic Acid is effective in treating hyperpigmentation and tanning by slowing down the production of melanin.

This serum is developed with a concentration of 2% Alpha Arbutin to efficiently remove hyperpigmentation and provide clean skin. UV protection and moisture are provided by the 5% Niacinamide, resulting in clearer, brighter skin.

A potent serum with 10% Niacinamide which helps protect against sun-damage and moisturises the skin and 0.3% Alpha Arbutin to remove tanning and brighten the skin, the serum is the perfect addition to your skincare shelf. 

With 10% Vitamin C, this serum not only brightens your skin, it also provides photo protection. The Ferulic Acid helps stabilize and boosts the efficacy of the Vitamin C.

Prevention is always better than cure, even when it comes to tanning. It’s advisable to try and avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight, not just to prevent tanned skin but to avoid the risk of serious skin damage and skin cancer.

  • How to remove tan quickly?

Using skin-lightening ingredients such as Alpha Arbutin, Vitamin C, Azelaic Acid can help in quickly and effectively getting rid of tanning on skin. Bleaching ingredients such as hydroquinone are also quite effective in tan removal, but they are harmful for the skin.

  • Can tan be removed permanently?

No, tan removal cannot be permanent. The skin will produce melanin when exposed to sunlight, as a natural response against UV rays. 

  • Is it safe to use skin lightening ingredients?

Yes, skin lightening ingredients such as Vitamin C, Alpha Arbutin, Kojic Acid, Azelaic Acid are absolutely safe to use and are a good substitute to the conventional skin lightening ingredients such as hydroquinone, which can harm the skin cells. 

  • Can hydroquinone be used for tan removal?

Yes, hydroquinone can be used for tan removal. But, it works by harming the cells that produce melanin, hence discretionary use is advised under the guidance of a dermatologist. It’s better to use safer skin lightening alternatives such as Alpha Arbutin or Vitamin C.

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