University Health and Counseling Services
Ambrose Center

Skin Care and Tanning

UHCS Services

Wellness Services at UHCS provides information on tanning. Physicians and medical staff can also provide dermatology referals and recommendations on skin care.


Effects of Tanning

There is no such thing as a safe tan! Skin pigment (also called melanin), absorbs the energy of ultraviolet radiation (UV) and helps prevent harm to the skin cells. Tanning of the skin and the darkening of the melanin is a sign of damage.

  • Sensitivity to sunlight and ability to tan varies ac¬cording to the amount of melanin in the skin
  • The amount of melanin present in a person's skin depends on heredity
  • Some people are able to produce large amounts of melanin in response to UV radiation, while others produce very little.

Who is at greatest risk?

Those who produce little mela¬nin are most at risk of skin cancer and other risks associated with tanning. Factors such as age, health, and skin type also determine how an individual will be affected by UV exposure. People over the age of 50 and under the age of 5 are generally more sensitive to the harmful effects of UV as well as those with immune deficiencies and chronic diseases

 Skin  Type  Skin Color  Burning Affect
I Pale White Always burns - never tans
II White to Light Beige Burns easily - tans minimally
III Beige Burns moderately - tans gradually to light brown
IV Light Brown (olive) Burns minimally - tans well to moderately brown
V Moderate Brown Rarely burns - tans profusely to dark brown
VI Dark Brown or Black Never burns - tans profusely

Health Risks

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, excessive or improper exposure to ultraviolet light can cause harmful changes in the skin and other organs.

The health risks include:

  • Skin Cancer, including Melanoma
  • Cataracts
  • Impairment of the Immune System
  • Premature Aging, Wrinkles, Sun Spots
  • Photosensitivity

Skin Cancer: What you should watch for:
Any birthmark or mole that changes shape, color, size or surface

  • Any new growth on your skin-pale, pearly nodules that may grow larger and crust, or red, scaly, sharply defined patches
  • Any sore that doesn't heal
  • Any patch of skin that bleeds, oozes, swells, itches or becomes red and bumpy
Mole - asymmetry A. Asymmetry - One half unlke the other

B. Border - Irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined.

C. Color - varied from one area to another in the same mole; shades of tan and brown, black and sometimes white, red or blue.

D. Diameter - larger than 6mm (larger than a pencil eraser).

E. Elevation - the mole is raised above the surface and has an uneven surface.

Mole - Border
Mole - Color
Mole - Diameter

Tanning Facts

  • A tan is an injury to the skin caused by too much UV exposure.
  • Lamps in tanning devices can increase exposure to dangerous ultraviolet radiation compared to direct sunlight.
  • Maximum exposure time in a tanning bed at any one session should never exceed 15 minutes.
  • A few minutes a day of unprotected sun exposure is usually all that is needed for the average person to get enough vitamin D.
  • Melanoma is the second most common type of cancer in teens and young adults and is the leading cause of cancer death in women 25 to 30 years old.

Sunless Tanners

Make sure to take precautions at home or at the salon if you use sunless tanners. While these come in many different forms (like lotions, creams and sprays), it's really important that you follow all directions and make sure to not get any self-tanner in your eyes, nose or mouth.

If you use a sunless tanning booth, ask the tanning salon a couple of questions first:

  • Will my eyes and the area surrounding them be protected?
  • Will my nose, mouth, and ears be protected?
  • Will I be protected from inhaling the tanning spray through my nose or mouth?

If the answer to any of these questions is 'no,' look for another salon. It's not worth risking your health to exposure to chemicals with potentially dangerous effects.

Protect Yourself


  • Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, even on cloudy days.
  • Use liberal amounts of sunscreen.
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure.
  • Reapply sunscreen frequently and after swimming, even if it is "waterproof".
  • Wear loose clothing.
  • Wear gray or green sunglasses.
  • Wear a wide brimmed hat.
  • Use a lop cream with sunscreen.


  • Sunlight from 10am-3pm
  • Tanning booths
  • White surfaces in bright sunlight (sand, tennis courts, water, decks, tables)
  • White clothing
  • Sun reflectors
  • Deep tanning oils



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