You Tan, You Die?

Dermatologist says there's no safe way to tan topless

By Eric Sparling

Sun tan season is just around the corner. With a pool in the backyard and a nice tall, wooden fence for privacy, it's time to free the sisters and bask topless as nature intended. But to avoid a sunburn on your palest parts, how short should your first sun tanning session be?

For an answer to this and other questions about topless sun tanning, we contacted Gene Rubinstein, MD, a California-based dermatologist.

So doc, to start building up a tan base, how long should we stay out on the first sunny day?

"Zero hours, zero minutes, zero seconds!"

Whoa, who, whoa! Zero, zero, zero? No tanning? None?

That's right, boys and girls – okay, just girls – our MD has nothing positive to say about sun tanning. Not your arms, not your legs, and not your breasts.

"No dermatologist will ever recommend sun tanning of any type," says Rubinstein, "since any sun tan is a sign of sun damage and thus may lead to skin cancer."

That's right. The healthy golden-bronze tan you're lusting after is actually the baked hue of irradiated, damaged flesh. When you think of it that way, it kind of takes the luster off the tanning thing, doesn't it.

According to the doc, a base tan offers "absolutely no protection," and even sunscreen is only a "supplement" to doing your best to stay covered up and out of the direct rays of the sun. Says Rubinstein, "it makes no sense to seek out the sun and then use sunscreen to lessen its effects."

But let's say you're not sensible. Five-inch stilettos aren't the slightest bit sensible, but there's still a time and place, right?

Well, you need to understand that there is no healthy way to get a real tan. The dermatologist says there are many self-tanning products that are "completely safe," but there are no exceptions to his ban on the real deal. Sun damage is the leading cause of skin cancers, and basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of cancer in the Melanoma, another skin cancer, kills 8,000 Americans every year, says Rubinstein.

But your mind is made up. You've heard all the yadda-yadda about skin cancer and you just don't care. Won't happen to you. You didn't give up smoking just because of lung cancer, either. So you're going to doff your top and set your skin on "sizzle." That's your right, of course. A high SPF suntan lotion will help slow the rate of damage, sure. But don't kid yourself: a gradual tan is just gradual damage; there's no "healthy" way to tan, just as there's no healthy way to hold a lit match against your hand. And if you ever have an unhealing-pimple, a bleeding area, or a new, irregularly-shaped dark patch on the skin of your breasts, head directly to a dermatologist – and pray you aren't just another burnt offering to the sun god.

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