Although our skin has this built-in defense system against UV radiation, it is strongly encouraged to use tanning products, moisturizers, and skin care treatments after tanning to further protect your skin against ultraviolet damage. Continue reading to learn the process in which skin tans, and what makes our bodies lose our tan after some time.
Melanocytes and Melanin
Your body goes through a process called melanogenesis to darken the skin. During melanogenesis, cells called melanocytes produce a pigment called melanin, which makes the skin change color under UV exposure. These specialized cells make two different kinds of melanin: pheomelanin and eumelanin. Pheomelanin renders the skin red, such as a sun burn, whereas eumelanin renders the skin a dark brown color. These pigments protect your skin by absorbing UV solar radiation upon exposure. It is also the body’s means to repair any skin damage that has already taken place. The darker you get, the more your body is trying to repair and protect your skin.
Melanogenesis is not a process that shows immediate results. Generally, the skin will turn pink or red during initial exposure, and then change to a darker tan or brown color several hours later. The more sun exposure, the more melanin your body will continue to produce in order to repair and protect your skin. This is why we often look darker one or two days after enjoying the sun (or tanning bed). But once sun exposure begins to die down, your growing skin cells push the darkened skin upward, and your tan begins to fade as dead skin is exfoliated more and more.
It is important to learn the proper tanning course for your skin type before hitting the sun too hard. There are several tanning lotions, moisturizers, and skin care products that not only enhance and extend your tan, but also enrich and protect your skin year-round. Talk to your local tanning consultant for customized tanning advice for your unique skin tone and type.