While we usually like to fake (not bake) our tans, there are plenty of reasons why we love the sun. It boosts levels of serotonin (nature's own Valium, proven to alleviate anxiety). Not only that, but it produces vitamin D which is good for bones, teeth and skin. But to avoid premature ageing and skin cancer risks, you need to take care for a safe, sun-kissed glow.
1. Always, always avoid sunbeds
Don't fall for the myth peddled by some salons that they can give you a 'healthy' tan with a sunbed. "It's the wrong UV – tanning beds pump out huge amounts of UVA and virtually no UVB (which stimulates vitamin D), and can increase your risk of skin cancer by 75%" says Dr. Nick Lowe of The Cranley Clinic in London.
2. Apply the right sunscreen
Don't just rely on SPF; on the bottle you need to look for the term 'broad spectrum' or the UVA logo plus the word 'high'.
Go for SPF30 over SPF50. "It filters 97% of UVB rays, while SPF50 filters 98%. The latter can give a false sense of security and can be so chalky you may not reapply it every two hours like you should. If you have very dark skin (south Indian or black), SPF15 is sufficient." Explains Dr. Lowe.
3. Understand your tanning time
Your skin reaches a tanning cut-off point when it physically can't produce any more melanin, the tanning pigment, so it's pointless to lounge by the pool all day. "Everyone has their own melanin cut-off, typically two to three hours or much less if you have fair skin" says Dr Lowe. "After this you're just subjecting your skin to the risk of UV damage."
4. Seek some shade
"Taking breaks from the sun will reduce UV intensity and your sunburn risk and means your tan will be healthier and longer-lasting" says Dr. Frank Schwanke, Head of Suncare R&D for Beiersdorf.
5. Swap 'tan-accelerating' creams for supplements
Skin cancer authority, Dr. Marko Lens, says 'tan-accelerating' creams are fake news. "Nothing you apply to your skin can improve the production of melanin, skin's protective dark pigment. But taking a daily 25g beta-caretone supplement can. It doesn't mean you need less sunscreen, but it boosts skin's natural defence against UV by improving its ability to tan."
6. Eat sun-friendly foods
Certain foods are known to increase lycopene, the skin's own SPF. An antioxidant found in tomatoes, and other red and orange fruit and veg, it can boost your sun protection by a whopping 33%. One of the best sources is tomato paste – did someone say spag bol?
Dermatologist Dr. Samantha Bunting says "I'm a big fan of a group of antioxidants called polyphenols. Green tea is a great example. Sip it after a sushi lunch." (Fish, rich in omega-3 has anti-inflammatory powers too).
Dark chocolate is packed with flavonoids that can help protect against sunburn, while caffeine is thought to help cut your skin cancer risk. "It's best taken in an espresso shot right before you hit the beach" she says.
7. Faux your glow
Remember that fake tan offers no sun protection, but it can help you stop burning by easing the first day pale panic on holiday. Treat yourself to a spray tan before the big bikini reveal or find the perfect one to use at home.