Oh Good – Getting A Tan Is Seriously Bad News For Your DNA

Forget your standard skin damage warning.
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If you’re planning a sunny escape to uh, actually experience sun this summer, experts have warned that tanning shouldn’t be the intention behind jetting off.

Of course, there is no safe or healthy way to get a natural tan but researchers have found that holiday tans can actually have an impact on skin and cause damage to DNA skin cells.

So, basically, our skin, which is actually the largest organ of the human body, is host to a vast array of bacteria, fungi, and viruses – all of which are microorganisms that make up the skin microbiota. The skin microbiota works to guard against infections and diseases – it works essentially as a shield.

However, the researchers have found that short bursts of intense sun-exposure such as, say, a 7 day holiday in a sunny destination, can lead to damaging the skin cells’ DNA, inflammation, and premature skin aging. Despite this, people still holiday with the intention of catching a tan.

“Here we show in a cohort of holidaymakers that their sun exposure behaviour significantly affects the diversity and composition of their skin microbiota,” says Dr. Abigail Langton, the study’s principal investigator from the University of Manchester, in a media release.

The research itself: a short summary

Prior to holidays to sunny destinations, which lasted at least seven days, the researchers analysed participants’ skin. The skin microbiota is largely made up of three bacterial communities on the surface: Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, and Firmicutes.

On day one, day 28, and day 84 after the holiday, participants’ skin microbiota was assessed again. Each holidaymaker was also assigned a group based on individual tanning response.

Eight out of 21 participants, who picked up a tan while on holiday, were coined ‘seekers’. Then, ‘tanned’ group was made up of seven people who already had a tan at departure and maintained it throughout their holiday. Those two groups were classified as ‘sun-seekers’.

The remaining six participants were deemed ‘avoiders’ as their skin tone didn’t change pre and post-holiday.

Study first author Dr Thomas Willmott said: “This study was performed on real-life holidaymakers and provides important insights into how sun exposure resulting in a tanning response – even over a relatively short sunny period – can lead to an acute reduction in Proteobacteria abundance, which decreased skin microbiota diversity,”

However, despite this rapid reduction, the bacterial structure had recovered 28 days after the individuals had returned from their trip.

This isn’t exactly the good news that it may seem like. The researchers said that the concern still lies with the rapid alteration of microbiota diversity, which has been linked to disease. In short: even a short period of your skin’s DNA being compromised can lead to disease. An example given in the research is dermatitis which has been linked with this reduction previously.

In short: protect yourself when you’re out in the sun and don’t try to get a natural tan: stick to fake tan!