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Why Your Skin Delays The Tanning Process

Most pale-skinned people are well aware of the disappointing indignity of spending the first few days of a sunshine break with stubbornly pasty limbs. But, actually, it should be considered good news, not a disappointment.

Two women sunbathing at the beach

Scientists have discovered why people do not tan immediately, even after a day of sunbathing at the beach. The delayed tanning phenomenon occurs because the body prioritises repairing the DNA damage done to the skin by sunlight.

Only after the cells have repaired the genetic information sufficiently do they begin to increase melanin which darkens the skin, generating a physical protection to help withstand the next bout of Sun damage.

It suggests that tanners should take comfort in the fact the body is silently working beneath the skin to prevent cancer even if nothing is visible.

“It turns out that the mechanism that repairs our DNA takes precedence over all other systems in the cell, temporarily inhibiting the pigmentation mechanism," says Nadav Elkoshi, a doctoral student from the Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry at Tel Aviv University, who led the research.

“Only after the cells repair the genetic information to the best of their ability do they begin to produce the increased melanin.”

“This scientific discovery has revealed a molecular mechanism that could serve as a foundation for further research that may lead to innovative treatments that will provide maximum protection of the skin against radiation damage; in the long run, it may even contribute to the prevention of skin cancer,” says Professor Carmit Levy, also of Tel Aviv University.

The research was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.


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