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Diary of a Sun Tan; Can you really tan using high factor cream? We sent our tester to Turkey - and told her never to go below SPF 15.

Byline: Words: Lynne Michelle

We all know about sensible sunbathing but few of us bother to do it. Even if we do burn, we reason, we'll eventually go brown. So what really happens when a former frazzler is persuaded to up her sun protection into double figures? Did she come back lily white, lobster red or honey bronze? And what impact did her week in the sun have on her skin's health?

The Tan Guinea Pig: Kelli Reese, 24, make-up artist

Skin type: Naturally fair with freckles and dark hair

Tan history: Gone for the burn several times. `I'd always assumed that I'd stay white if I put on sun cream higher than factor eight. I've always ended up burning myself before I get a tan.'

Holiday: A week's basting in Turkey

The Tan Guru: Mike Brown, sun care expert at Boots

Sun care advice: Kelli is a type two, which means she burns fairly easily and finds it quite difficult to tan. But there's no reason she shouldn't come home with a bit of colour if she's careful. Going brown is your skin's way of telling you you're damaging it, so ideally she should stay out of the sun altogether. Since that's not realistic, she needs to protect her skin without blocking out the UV rays totally.

The Tan Commandments

Kelli's sun-bathing programme is designed for maximum tanning without burning, not maximum protection or optimum skin care. There's no such thing as a safe tan!

Prepare the skin by drinking lots of water - aim for two litres a day - and moisturising for extra hydration.

Start with a factor 25. If Kelli goes a whole day without burning, she can lower the factor by five. After a day with factor 20 she can go down to factor 15 if she hasn't burned.

At the first sign of burning, up the factor again.

Don't go below factor 15.

Don't rush it. `Burns are instant but tans aren't,' says Mike. `You usually don't see the benefits of the first day until day two or even three.'

KELLI'S SUN DIARY

Day 1 Start with factor 25, slapping on to all sun-exposed skin every two hours. Wear hat at first to ward off sunstroke but end up having to walk 10 paces behind my fashion victim friend Pete as I look so daft. Drink a litre and a half of water to keep skin hydrated (and ease hangover) and limit my sunbathing to three hours (2pm to 5pm). No burnt bits by end of day, but can't believe I'm going to get a tan.

Day 2 Little to report on the colour front - slight flush but probably from heat. Not convinced this is working. Longing to hit the factor eight but only go down as far as factor 20 (OK, 15 on the legs but desperate for brown limbs). Swim in salt water pool but make sure I reapply lotion immediately afterwards. Slight pinkness on chest by end of day but otherwise nothing much.

Day 3 Hurrah! Had a bit of colour when I woke up today. Unfortunately my chest is looking a bit singed, so it's back up to factor 25 - am amazed the sun's rays can get through a factor 20. Stick to 15 on the legs and dispense with hat as tired of looking like the village idiot. Sadly I now have a burnt parting.

Day 4 Pinkness has faded on chest and the rest of me is definitely going golden. Must be looking good as I attract the attentions of a gorgeous (and straight!) male model by the pool. Shame he lives in South Africa. Down to factor 15 all over today apart from my chest which gets a slathering of factor 25.

Day 5 Result! I'm nicely brown - even the pink bits. Use factor 15 all day 1pm- 6pm.

Day 6 Last day so time to pop on the white bikini for maximum tan contrast - eat your heart out, Geri. Factor 15 again, apart from total sunblock on a red patch on my calf (must have missed a bit yesterday, whoops). Never thought I'd say it but this is the brownest I've ever been in my life, even though I've used much higher factors than usual. Converted!

KNOW YOUR SUN TYPE

There are six basic sun types - which are you? And what SPF range should you pack for your holiday? (SPFs based on summer holiday in the Med. Start with the highest factor and gradually work down)

1

CHARLIE DIMMOCK

Characteristics: Very pale skin, red/pale blonde hair, green/blue eyes, never or rarely tans, always burns

Protection programme: SPF 50 at all times. You're not going to tan so there's no point taking risks - type one skin can burn in minutes

2

KATE WINSLET

Characteristics: Pale skin, blue/hazel eyes, blonde to light brown hair, tans slightly, burns easily

Protection programme: SPF 25 to 50, depending on how easily you burn

3

JENNIFER ANISTON

Characteristics: Lightly tanned skin, brown or lighter eyes, fair to brown hair, tans moderately, burns occasionally

Protection programme: SPF 15 to 25. Even factor 25 will allow you to get some colour while protecting yourself

4

YASMIN LE BON

Characteristics: Olive skin, brown eyes, brown to black hair, tans strongly, burns infrequently

Protection programme: SPF 10 to 20, depending on how dark your skin is and how much time you're spending in the sun

5

HALLE BERRY

Characteristics:: Brown skin, brown eyes, brown or black hair, rarely burns

Protection programme: SPF 8 to 12 to protect skin. Darker skin rarely frazzles but burning is an extreme stage of sun exposure and damage can occur without any SPF

6

IMAN

Characteristics: Black skin, brown eyes, black hair, rarely or never burns

Protection programme: SPF 8 - but don't forget lighter, more vulnerable areas such as the soles of the feet, which need more protection

THE CAMERA NEVER LIES

Yes, she got her tan. But at what price? We took pics of Kelli's face with a UV camera from skin care company Ella Bache (01753 880537) to find out.

Before: `The pigmentation on her face shows that she already has some UV damage,' says Ella Bache therapist Nicola Stoddart. `Clumps of pigmentation are starting to form around her eyes and that's only going to become more noticeable if she doesn't protect her skin. Most of the damage probably occurred when she was younger and didn't wear sunscreen outdoors. But overall, her skin isn't too bad. It's well hydrated and only a little oily in patches.'

After: `Kelli's skin is showing more UV damage after just a week in the sun,' says Nicola. `The dark purple areas indicate fragile skin that has lost collagen and elastin. The hydration levels are dramatically reduced too. She needs to protect her skin from the sun in future and allow it to regenerate by wearing SPF 25 at all times. A week's damage is fairly superficial and can be repaired but the problem will be compounded over time if she continues to tan.'

of the best

SMART SUN LOTIONS

Lancaster Tan Maximiser Aftersun, pounds 24

End a hard day's sunning by slathering your bod in this rich aftersun. Its ingredients encourage your tan to develop better and last longer.

Boots No7 Aftersun Recovery Mask, pounds 5.50 If you've had a bit too much fun in the sun, try this post-baking mask. It cools, soothes, hydrates and helps combat ageing UV damage.

Piz Buin Self Tan Foam, pounds 11.99 A fake tan is the only safe tan, but most take sooo long to dry. This goes on evenly, comes in two different shades and dries so fast you can put your clothes on five minutes later without smudging.

Wella System Professional Sunshine Cream Spray, pounds 9.15 Protect your hair from the withering effects of the sun and stop your expensive highlights turning brassy with this non-gunky protective spray.

Nivea Sun Firming Sun Lotion SPF 15, pounds 11.79

Lazing in the sun breaks down collagen, reducing the skin's elasticity and firmness. But Nivea claims this suncream will help keep your parts pert as well as burn-free.

Clarins Soin Multi-Eclat Auto-Bronzant, pounds 21.50 If you find self-tan makes your skin look a bit dry and grubby, Clarins have come up with this nifty fake which gives you radiance as well as colour.

CAPTION(S):

Our guinea pig in the sun
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 28, 2002
Words:1400
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