The Only Safe Tan Is a Spray Tan Sorry, but the fact of the matter is, a tan is really just cumulative skin damage, says Dr. Bank. "The bottom line -- any time your skin gets darker, it means you've done ultraviolet damage to the skin," he says. "It's ultraviolet damage that stimulates your melanocytes, or pigment-producing cells, to start making more melanin (which is what we view as a tan) in attempt for the skin to protect itself. There is no way around the simple biological fact that if you are darker at the end of the day, you have done some degree of damage to your skin."
And what does "damage to the skin" (aka a tan) translate to? Oh you know, just squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma -- all technical words for skin cancer. So the doctor says that if you want to be darker, the only way to do it safely is with a spray tan or some self-tanner.
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