Does a “base tan” protect you from sunburn?
Do you like to get your skin beach-ready before vacation? If so, you’re not the only one. Many people like to hop in the tanning bed before they hit the beach or pool, hoping that a “base” tan can prevent a painful sunburn. Unfortunately, this ritual is like fighting fire with fire. Every time you tan, even if you’re just trying to get a “base tan,” you increase your risk of skin cancer.
The “base tan” myth, busted
According to the UAMS Dermatology Department, the skin darkening you receive from a tanning bed only offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of 1-4. This SPF is hardly enough to protect you from the sun. Also, because your skin receives UVA rays in a tanning bed, a tan will not protect you from the UVB rays you receive from the sun that cause skin redness and DNA damage. Tanning or darkening of the skin (including developing freckles) is tangible evidence of skin damage, and this promotes premature skin aging and increases the risk of skin cancer.
Using indoor tanning beds before the age of 35 increases your risk of developing melanoma by 59%. If you haven’t heard of melanoma, here’s a quick fact: it’s the deadliest form of skin cancer. In 2018, the American Academy of Dermatology stated that Melanoma kills one person every hour.
How to have a healthy tan
The healthiest tan is a sunless tan! If you are looking for a safer alternative to getting a sun-kissed look, consider using a sunless tanning spray or lotion. The active ingredient in sunless tanners is called dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, which interacts with proteins in the skin to produce a tan that gradually fades. Tanning products with DHA have gone a long way in recent years: they are long-lasting, realistic, and very different from the orange-tinged fake tans of the past. And the best part? Using a sunless tanning product doesn’t increase your skin cancer risk! Just remember to apply SPF if you go outdoors since self-tanner can’t protect your skin from sun damage.
Visit a Dermatologist at UAMS
Whether you know you have skin damage from sun exposure or you have other questions about your skin, contact the Dermatology Clinic at UAMS to make an appointment today. One of the best things about seeing a dermatologist at UAMS is that if you do get a skin cancer diagnosis, you are already a patient at one of the largest cancer institutes in the area. That means that you can get your diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care all from UAMS. The UAMS Dermatology Clinic is a self-referral clinic, so you don’t need a referral from another doctor to make an appointment. Call 501-686-8000 to make an appointment.