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Are you dying to be tan?

 
Love the sun? Too bad it doesn’t always heart ya back. In fact, yikes, more teens are being treated for sun-related skin damage than ever before. We’re shining a light on what you need to know about the sun so you can have fun—and keep safe—all summer long.

STARTLING STATS
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one blistering sunburn during childhood nearly doubles your lifetime risk of melanoma. Dr. Craig Austin, a New York City dermatologist, regularly treats teen patients. “There’s been an increase of melanoma in kids. It used to be very rare, but now, unfortunately, we’re seeing it more than ever before,” he says.

MORE THAN JUST A BURN

While skin cancer is a scary enough thought, the other lasting effects of sun damage aren’t so hot, either—broken blood vessels, skin discoloration, larger pores, and, yup, even wrinkles. “The effects of sun damage can show up earlier than you’ll ever imagine,” warns Dr. Austin. “You may start seeing wrinkles in your 20s.” So. Not. Worth. It.

NOT-SO-SAFE SALONS
What’s causing this sudden spike in sun damage? Blame Hollywood, for starters. A ton of today’s stars are perpetuating the idea that you have to have a sun-kissed glow to be beautiful. As a result, teens are laying out all summer and flocking to the tanning beds in the off-season. “So many young girls think it’s safe to go tanning, but just a couple of minutes in a tanning bed can lead to a very bad burn,” says Dr. Austin. And even if you don’t get an ouch-tastic burn, any amount of SPF-free sunshine is damaging your skin. The truth hurts—but not as much as cancer or permanent damage.

PROTECT YOURSELF
So what’s a girl to do? It’s not like holing up in your house all summer is really an option. So protect yourself by slathering on the SPF (Dr. Austin recommends SPF 30 or above). Wear a hat to keep your face shadowed, and sit under an umbrella at the beach. And reapply, reapply, reapply—especially after swimming.

If you do get a little, um, lobster-like? Don’t freak. Try a cool bath (adding a few drops of lavender oil soothes skin) then apply aloe. Taking an aspirin within 24 hours can ease pain and reduce redness. “If you’re worried about too much exposure, see your dermo to check for signs of anything serious,” says Dr. Austin.

And of course, you can always fake a glow. Spray tans, which Dr. Austin calls “totally safe,” are an easy option when you want a little color. Way to be hot and smart on the beach, babe!

BY SARAH WASSNER FLYNN ON 7/29/2010 12:51:00 PM

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