How the skin tans
How the skin tans
As an industry, we work to promote our clients’ ability to tan. What’s more, by providing customers with the appropriate tanning lotions and tips, we know that this will help them to reach their desired bronze. However how many of us truly understand the tanning process that we are aiding? Knowing how the skin tans could give you more confidence when speaking to clients about the difference between lotions and how they affect the skin.
Did you know that tanning causes the skin to react to UV light in at least four responses?
When skin tans, there are four main reactions which take place:
- Melanin pigmentation begins to form. This is what leads to the skin darkening (tanning).
- The skin’s outer barrier begins to thicken.
- Various repair mechanisms start working.
- Several immune responses begin, allowing you to fight diseases more effectively. This is typically a response to the increased exposure to UVA and UVB.
These reactions will not take place the instant that someone begins tanning, but develop over time.
The Tanning Process
The tanning process takes place in the skin’s uppermost layer – the epidermis. When skin is exposed to UV, the tanning process begins. The initial step of this starts as UVB light triggers melanocytes in the basal layer of skin. (The basal layer sits just between the dermis and epidermis.) These special cells then slowly begin to grow branch-like stems upwards in between the normal skin cells above. These branches separate into smaller cells called melanosomes. Melanosomes are responsible for the synthesis, storage and transport of melanin to the epidermis. As the melanosomes enter the epidermis, they are absorbed by skin cells, degrade and release pale melanin which forms a protective layer around the skin cell’s nucleus.
Later on, (after an estimate of two tanning sessions), UVA light triggers the visible tanning effect. Melanin is oxidised which causes it to develop from pale to tan. This deeper-coloured melanin can then act as a protective barrier against UV rays. This process takes between two to three days, depending on skin type, as well as a client’s frequency of UV exposure.
When tanning, the first couple of sessions predominantly focus on the initial process of melanocytes releasing melanin into the skin cells. Initially, skin will lack the melanin required to tan if it has not been exposed to UV recently. Therefore, typically the second session onward is the earliest time that the skin will begin developing a darker pigment. However, for those clients looking to tan immediately, many tanning lotions contain different bronzers which can cater to these needs and help customers develop a deeper, darker, longer-lasting tan faster.
It’s necessary that you explain the importance of building up a tan gradually and 0.3 when your clients start tanning. Little and often using 0.3 lamps is the best way to develop a tan as it avoids the risk of overexposure and skin damage.
When using a sunbed, it is also important that your clients apply a professional tanning lotion. To find out why lotions play such an important role in maintaining skin health, click here.