The Truth About "Base Tans"
With Springtime around the corner, I thought it was the perfect time to talk about the infamous "base tan." The thought behind it goes a little something like this "since I am going on a beach vacation next month and I don't want to burn, so I am going to work on my tan to get a base color." This is a pretty common pre-travel prep ritual, however, it could not be any further from the truth and also damaging and dangerous.
What is a Tan & Sunburn?
Let’s understand what a tan is in the first place. A tan is actually the result of the skin’s defenses kicking in. When UV light hits the skin, it damages the DNA of the skin cells causing them to produce melanin to protect the cells. So basically that means if the skin is tanned the DNA and skin are already damaged, which essentially is a scar to the skin.
Now a sunburn, on the other hand, is more extreme skin damage. It's from the overexposure of the sun and/or the reaction people with less melanin and fairer skin tones experience. Peeling skin from a sunburn is the body's way of getting rid damaged skin cells that are at risk for potentially becoming cancerous. While red and peeling skin is looked at as aesthetically annoying, it's actually your skin protecting itself.
The facts behind the "base tan"
According to the CDC, a base tan provides an SPF 4 or less. Which means that if you normally turn pink after about 10 minutes without sunscreen and you have a base tan of say SPF 4 that is equivalent to about 40 minutes of protection and completely meaningless when it comes to true sun protection.
In a 2013 study, there were college students that received base tans 10 weeks prior to spring break. Since they assumed they would have better protection many didn't use sunscreen or didn't reapply properly and there was actually an INCREASE of sunburns in those students than people without base tans. Imagine that! Also, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the use of tanning beds before age 35 can increase a person's melanoma risk by 75%.
Regardless of what the extremely tanned girl at the tanning salon says, there is no such thing as a safe tan. Have you seen advertisements for UVB free tanning beds providing a "safer" tan? Let's cut the crap, just because these tanning beds have little to no UVB rays doesn't mean the UVA rays are any less damaging to the skin. In case you aren't familiar with UVA rays, it can still cause many forms of skin cancer including the potential deadly melanoma, premature aging like broken blood vessels, dark or light spots of pigmentation, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, sagging and dry skin.
Bottom line, having a tan from the sun or tanning beds does not give a magical tolerance for the sun. Don't get me wrong, that bronzy glow is definitely appealing but it can absolutely be achieved with self-tanning products and spray tans. My favorite clean self-tanning products will be an upcoming blog post! Stay tuned!
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