Here's How To Know If Your Sunburn Will Eventually Fade Into A Tan

by Julia Guerra

The summer before junior year of high school, I tagged along on a trip with my best friend and her family to South Carolina.

Her mission was to finally tan my milky white skin once and for all.

Long story short, she was successful, if only by a kiss of caramel on my feet, arms, and décolletage that lasted through the ride home.

It did, however, take day after day of minor burns to get there -- a means to an end that is absolutely not ideal for your skin's well-being, and probably something I'll never purposely do again.

Whether you forgot to reapply, or you left your hat in the car and you're too lazy to go retrieve it, or you fell asleep on the beach, or you simply chose to soak up some sun in hopes of a little color, sunburns happen frequently during the sizzling months.

Would I choose to lay out and roast under harmful UV rays on the off chance my near-translucent complexion would turn to a summery tan? No way.

Am I judging you for making that choice? No, but it's definitely beneficial to become familiar with the telltale symptoms of a to-be-tan versus serious burns that need medicinal aid past a rub-down of aloe.

It's Personal

The way skin reacts to sun exposure is an individual matter.

Florida-based dermatologist Dan Wasserman, MD told Yahoo! Beauty,

A burn is nothing more than the skin's response to DNA damage of the skin cells. The body is shunting blood to the [skin] to fix and repair it. You have a fire, and the redness is the fire department.

There's more behind the redness of a burn transitioning to a dark pigmentation.

Because ultraviolet radiation, or UVB rays, literally set your skin on fire, the body reacts by sending this protective color shield, otherwise known as melanin, around the nucleus of a cell to ultimately protect DNA.

I know when I burn, I'm red for days at a time, I peel, and I'm back to pale in no time.

My sister, however, burns for a day or so before she's a gorgeous tint of brown.

So, as you can see, it all depends on your body's individual defense mechanism.

Sun Protection

It is a common misconception that the higher the SPF of your sunscreen, the less likely you are to get some color.

Greater levels of SPF do not necessarily equate to stronger sun protection, but rather provide our skin with protection longer than that of a lotion or oil with lower SPF.

So, rather than shying away from these forms of protection in order to sustain a summer glow, skin is protected from burning, and therefore damaged skin will not peel.

There Might Be An App For That

Technology really does do it all these days; it can even score you a summer glow.

Just in case you have poor perception regarding how much time under the sun is harmful to your skin, there are a few helpful apps you can download right to your smartphone to help you discover your skin's individual UV tolerance.

Higher intelligence tools like iTANsmart and My Tan Expert determine the likeliness of a tan, and how long users can stay out in the sun without burning by connecting to the phone's GPS, and tracking their activity in the sun.

My Tan Expert asks users to answer a series of questions about themselves, their surroundings, and even requires a photograph of the user's skin in order to assess even further.

(Don't) Feel The Burn

For the sake of your skin's health, opt out of lying in the sun this summer and, instead, give UV-free alternatives a try.

Lotions, dry oils, sprays, even sheet masks -- there are so many products available that get you to bronzed goddess status quickly, and without skin damage.