Thinking of getting your dream tan?

Now that we have witnessed the return of the sun and the beginning of Summer (my colleague was scared we had missed it last week and gone straight to Autumn) it’s a good time to pull those old, plastic white tanning benches out of the shed (they’re horribly uncomfortable, but they do the job). But caution is advised: sunbathing can be harmful if you don’t know how to do it correctly. Skin cancer is real, and so we should be taking proper care of our body's largest organ. That’s why we’ve put together a list of do’s and don’ts to strengthen your sunbathing routine.

Do wear sunscreen. This is not even a question. There is a common myth that sunscreen prevents you from tanning properly, but this is not true. Sunscreen helps protect the skin from dangerous inflammation and sun rays while still allowing for a consistent tanning process.

Don’t go sunbathing during the hottest time period of the day. Between 12-3pm the sun is at its peak, so avoid going outside and opt for a slow-baked tan after 3pm rather than a quick microwave session at lunch – the tan will have more depth, will be more consistent and less harmful to your skin. Skin renews itself every 10 days, so the slower you tan the better the result.

Do tan in the garden or on the terrace, it’s free and puts you at one with nature. Although…

Don’t go full on nude if houses around you have a direct view of you lying there in the garden (I know, common sense, right? Well not to some people). Unless, of course, you are sure your neighbour really wants to see your bronzed willy.

Do wear sunglasses and a hat and put up a small parasol to cover your head in the shade. The skin on your face is very thin and delicate and deserves proper protection. Keep your head out of the sun if you can.

Do slab on a fresh layer of sunscreen every hour. This is especially important if you go for a swim or use the garden hose to sprinkle some water over your body. Make sure to reapply sunscreen each time you’ve had a garden shower. You will be more likely to bake if your skin is wet, so give it that extra protection.

Don’t use an artificial bronzer if it’s not necessary. They can contain dangerous chemicals for your skin and you’ll end up looking like Donald Trump.

Do wash your hands if you decide to use a bronzer, as you don’t want to get that stuff in your hair.

Do make sure you hydrate properly. Before heading out into the sun, prepare a 1,5L bottle with some ice cubs and fresh lemon and aim to finish it by the end of your tanning session. Note: don’t leave the bottle in the sun but rather in the shade, as direct sunlight on plastic isn’t healthy either.

Do limit your sunbathing to a maximum of two hours per day. For lighter skin types this will already be dangerously long, so keep an eye on your skin. Better too short than too long for this one.

Don’t drink alcohol while tanning. Alcohol dehydrates the body and makes your skin more vulnerable to sun damage.

Don’t wax or exfoliate shortly before your tanning session. Scraping off the dead cells right before sunbathing will cause irritation, inflammation and may lead to a rapid sunburn. Need a natural recipe? Exfoliate a day or two before with ground oatmeal chimed with a bit of salt and mixed with olive oil.

Do moisturise after tanning. Rehydrate and replenish your skin with a soft, soothing cream. It helps your skin to recover and be ready for the next sunbathing moment.

Do realise that a strong sunburn does not turn into a strong tan. Burnt skin will turn darker in the short run, but will peel off within several days, leaving you with the same skin you had before the tan. Thus: only pain but no gain.

Don’t assume that not having a tan instantly means you haven’t tanned enough. It takes several days for your skin to heal and break down…

Do take breaks from sunbathing, and don’t sunbathe every day. Then you'll perfectly fine. And do read this again to make sure you remembered everything.