FAQ: Is It Possible to Remove or Lighten a Tan on Your Skin?
Human skin is remarkably sensitive for something designed to protect our body's internals from the elements. Without our skin, our bones and organs would be exposed to the world around us and could be damaged. Despite this, our skin can be damaged by certain environmental factors that are essentially unavoidable due to how prevalent they are. Elements like wind and heat can damage the skin and alter its appearance, with effects that can be permanent depending on how severe the exposure is.
Some elements provide appealing cosmetic benefits for our skin, so people actively seek to cultivate them. One of the most common skin effects people want to generate is a suntan due to its effect on their complexion.
Tans darken the skin and are very popular because they are considered attractive despite requiring exposure to potentially harmful elements. While many people like suntans, not everyone is a fan, and many prefer to maintain their natural skin tone. Avoiding a suntan is more difficult than people realize since they are caused by exposure to sunlight, which is impossible to avoid unless you only go out at night.
As a result, individuals who want to maintain their natural complexion often look for ways to protect themselves from tanning. Unfortunately, this is not always an option, and they might get tanned despite their best interest. This has generated an important question: Can a suntan be lightened or removed?
What Causes Tans?
Tans are interesting since they cause large portions of our skin to darken and take on a different hue. Suntans are considered attractive by conventional standards, but not everyone who wants them understands what causes them or how they affect us. Suntans, as the name implies, are caused by exposure to sunlight. Sunlight causes significant changes to our skin because it is a source of ultraviolet radiation, which can be dangerous when we absorb large quantities.
UV radiation triggers a defensive mechanism in the body designed to protect the skin from potential damage or threats. This mechanism is melanin production, which helps our bodies withstand the effects of UV radiation. Melanin production is a natural response from our bodies when we are exposed to UV radiation that takes advantage of natural pigments. When melanin levels increase, it causes a physical reaction that darkens the skin, which makes it harder for UV radiation to penetrate our skin.
As frustrating as it might sound, fairer complexions are significantly more sensitive to UV radiation than darker ones. This is why individuals native to the Middle East and Africa tend to have darker complexions than those from Europe or America.
This is because previous generations of those regions were exposed to higher concentrations of UV radiation across several years. This resulted in their complexions permanently changing to be darker, which was passed onto their offspring to offer protection against the intense UV rays endemic to those areas. Despite this, it is still possible for these demographics to produce additional melanin when they are exposed to additional UV radiation, though not to the same extent as individuals with fair complexions.
This melanin production is usually fairly pronounced in individuals with lighter skin, and it is also the cause of suntans. Melanin darkens the skin to varying degrees, so when melanin is produced in a naturally light complexion, the skin appears to get a bronze color.
Individuals who want to improve their appearance often pursue suntans since tans are considered conventionally attractive. There is also a rumor that suntans protect the skin from sunburns, which are extremely uncomfortable and painful, depending on their severity. As a result, many spend extended periods in direct sunlight to soak up the necessary rays to bronze their skin. People who are less patient seek out artificial tanning salons that offer a quick alternative to sun exposure. Unfortunately, many people overlook the fact that suntans are not necessarily the best thing for you.
Risks of Suntans
Suntans are often viewed as nothing more than a cosmetic enhancement that can be attained by spending extra time in the sun. While exposure to ultraviolet radiation can give us a tan, and some people find that attractive, tanning is not risk-free. UV radiation damages our skin and is more dangerous the longer we are exposed to it. Damage from UV radiation can cause physical symptoms that range from minor to serious.
The most common risk associated with UV exposure and suntanning is a cosmetic problem called photoaging. This phenomenon causes our skin to age prematurely and makes us look older than we are. Photoaging is a common issue caused by UV exposure, but tanning involves actively seeking UV radiation for a seeming enhancement to our appearance. Unfortunately, photoaging is not completely understood, so there is a lot of speculation surrounding what causes the phenomenon.
Experts believe that photoaging is caused by UV radiation breaking down collagen molecules and elastin fibers in otherwise healthy, young skin. In small doses, this is not a pressing concern, but over time, it can cause serious, highly unpleasant cosmetic issues. The most common symptoms of photoaging include wrinkles, dark spots, and leathery skin, which become more pronounced when the tan inevitably fades.
Furthermore, excessive exposure to UV radiation can cause our melanin production to malfunction and cause a chronic issue called hyperpigmentation. This condition causes our skin to develop dark patches akin to tanned skin but is inconsistent and makes our skin look mismatched.
Natural tanning requires us to seek UV radiation out and spend an extended period in it, which can increase the risk of photoaging. Unfortunately, the cosmetic issues of suntans are the least of our concerns since overexposure to UV radiation can cause major health issues like cancer. Specifically, overexposure to UV radiation can cause melanoma and non-melanoma cancers, which are extremely difficult to treat effectively.
While dealing with the potential health risks of tanning is difficult without medical treatment, cosmetic issues are easier to handle. Despite those issues, there is also a significant demographic that prefers to keep their original complexion despite spending time in the sun. Fortunately, it is possible to take preventative measures to reduce the risk of developing a tan. The problem is that these preventative tools are useless after the tan has manifested. Fortunately, it might be possible to counteract an existing tan and return to your original complexion.
Can You Lighten or Remove a Tan?
Suntans are a result of melanin production, which means they are similar to the symptoms of hyperpigmentation. Unlike hyperpigmentation, suntans are more consistent and will affect the entirety of the exposed skin. Furthermore, hyperpigmentation occurs due to our melanin production going into overdrive rather than being regulated by our bodies. Conversely, suntans can be controlled somewhat, meaning it is harder to develop tans without actively trying.
Unfortunately, it is still possible to develop a tan despite your best efforts if you spend significant time in sunlight. Some people work in careers that often expose them to sunlight, while others enjoy being outdoors for recreational activities. Either way, the more time we spend in the sun, the more likely it is to develop a tan (especially since many sunburns result in tans after they heal).
Suntans can be very deep and change your skin tone considerably after a short time, but most tans fade independently. Nevertheless, some people are eager to eliminate their tans ASAP to maintain their preferred appearance. Fortunately, because suntans are created by melanin, most hyperpigmentation treatments yield limited effects on tans and allow us to recover our old complexion.
Since tans are temporary to begin with, these substances are more effective than they are for hyperpigmentation (though most of them are extremely effective). The question is: What products can be used to alleviate a tan and restore our old complexion?
Option #1: Green Tea
The leaves of Camellia sinensis plants are responsible for creating several varieties of tea, including the ever-popular green tea. Green tea is one of the most commonly consumed tea varieties and is renowned for its nutritional and health benefits. One of the main reasons green tea is so beneficial is because it contains a high concentration of polyphenols, specifically catechins.
The most famous catechin in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which produces an extremely pronounced version of the effects cultivated from polyphenols. Green tea's health benefits are primarily associated with internal effects since green tea is typically consumed rather than applied topically. Despite this, green tea is one of the most effective skincare tools in the industry.
One of the more shocking examples of green tea's benefits for skincare is that it prevents photoaging and treats symptoms of hyperpigmentation. Specifically, a study was conducted on Japanese women who had hyperpigmentation. The women in the test group were given green tea or coffee, and those who received tea showed that consuming it alleviated the discoloration. While the study was designed to test green tea's effects on hyperpigmentation, its effects on alleviating discoloration can reduce the intensity of a suntan by the same principle. That said, there are other options if green tea is not ideal for your needs.
Option #2: Aloe vera
Anyone who has spent enough time in the sun without protection has likely experienced a sunburn at some point. Sunburns can cause mild discomfort or extreme pain depending on your burn's severity and where it is on your body. Regardless, alleviating the effects is one of people's biggest concerns after developing a particularly bad burn.
Fortunately, anyone who has ever had a burn has likely used Aloe vera due to its soothing effects to treat the symptoms. Aloe vera gel is a common remedy for sunburns because it has a cooling sensation and is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can reduce the irritation and pain caused by the burn. While Aloe vera's benefits for sunburns are well documented, many overlook its other effects and how it can further benefit our skin beyond treating burns. One of the main reasons Aloe vera is so beneficial is that it offers limited protection against UV radiation.
However, Aloe vera has an additional benefit, making it a viable tool for counteracting unwanted suntans. Like green tea, Aloe vera was studied as a remedy for hyperpigmentation due to its anti-UV radiation effects. Aloe vera's benefits against UV radiation are from a special substance called aloesin found in Aloe vera plants.
A study assessed the effects of aloesin against the discoloration effects induced by UV radiation. The subjects were exposed to UV radiation and then treated with either aloesin, arbutin, both, or neither. The study determined that aloesin effectively reduced hyperpigmentation symptoms normally caused by UV radiation.
Once again, this study focused on hyperpigmentation instead of suntans. Fortunately, since both concerns stem from the same compounds, the effects of Aloe vera for hyperpigmentation can easily be applied to suntans.
Finding the Right Blend
Suntans are considered attractive by an alarmingly large portion of the population who willfully disregard the risks. Fortunately, people are becoming more conscious of suntans' risks and less willing to develop them. This is not to say that no one wants to be tan, but that people recognize that chronic tans increase their risk of cosmetic or health issues.
Avoiding suntans can be as simple as staying out of direct sunlight, but this can cause issues since sunlight provides essential vitamins. Fortunately, it is possible to counteract the melanin pigmentations that cause suntans. The trick is finding a supplement that is effective and reliable.
We at Teami believe natural resources effectively resolve health and cosmetic issues. We have cultivated a vast catalog of products designed to help you maintain your desired appearance. We offer several skincare products, but among our best-selling products are our Butterfly Toner Mist (made with Aloe vera) and our Green Tea Detox Mask. These products, when added to your skincare routine, can help you alleviate an unwanted tan. We encourage you to visit our website and try our products personally. After all, finding the right blend is a Teami effort.
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