With the summer heat settling in, many are heading to the beaches and poolsides to soak up the sun's rays, all in an effort get their golden tans. In the winter, many of these same people will resort to artificial tanning beds in the hopes of maintaining these tans year-round. Yet, what many don't think about is the damage this will causing their skin.
There are many dangers to sun exposure, but scientists are looking into different ways of tanning that would avoid these dangerous side effects by removing the use of UV radiation. A group from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital have recently published a paper in Cell Reports that investigate just this.
How Does It Work?
The basis of the team’s research lies around the levels of melanin, a protein responsible for determining skin and hair colour. If you increase the amount melanin in the skin, the skin will appear darker. Therefore, the Harvard team search for a way to artificially increase the amount of melanin in human skin.
In a preliminary study, they found a compound called forskolin which effectively increased the amount of melanin in the skin of mice in the absence of UV light. This resulted in mice with darker skin pigmentation. However, when injected into humans, they did not get the same results.
Then the team found an enzyme called Salt Inducible Kinase (SIK) involved in the melanin production process. Since SIK acts as an inhibitor of melanin production, inhibiting SIK allowed stimulation of the production of the protein.
So far this has only been proven to work on isolated skin samples in the lab. Before it can be tested on human, the toxicity of the enzymes use must be thoroughly determined. In its primitive stages, this discovery shows a lot of promise for providing a safe way for people to obtain glowing skin without the dangerous effect of UV.
We live in a society where tanned skin is considered healthy and fashionable. In a study released by the American Academy of Dermatology, 72% of people surveyed admitted that tanned people were more attractive. Additionally, 66% thought that tanned people looked healthier.
However, the opposite is true. Exposure to UV radiation by tanning actually causes your skin to age faster by damaging the elastin fibers, all while increasing your risk of skin cancer. Since it appears that the popular beliefs surrounding tanning will not change any time soon, this type of tanning solution—with no potential damage from UV—would be a saving grace for our modern society.