Are you a person who loves to tan? Or insists on getting a “base tan” before the start of summer or vacation? Well, we have some knowledge to drop on you. Base tanning is a myth.
The prevalence of skin cancer is rising: nearly five million people in the United States will be treated for skin cancer this year (an increase of 50% from the prior decade). Out of those five million, it’s estimated that indoor tanning caused about 419,000 of those cases. Even with a world of knowledge at our very finger tips, there is still a lot of misinformation out there.
Have you heard of the idea of a base tan? It is the belief that getting some color before the summer or a vacation will help avoid burning. Plus, we all have the desire to not look pale when we bare our skin for the first time in shorts or a swimsuit.
Does a base tan prevent burning? No! All unprotected sun exposure can contribute to cancer and premature aging of the skin. According to a study described in the Scientific American, tanning dozens of volunteers resulted in almost no protection against future ultraviolet exposure. In fact, “base tanning” actually put people at higher risk of developing skin cancers. A base tan was only proven to provide an SPF (sun protection factor) of 3 or less. SPF 3! You might as well just rub on some baby oil at that point!
Getting this “base tan” from a tanning bed actually appears to be an even worse idea than preemptively exposing yourself to the sun. One study published this year looked at tanning from UVA light (the staple of tanning beds) and found that the protection from future burns would not even meet an SPF 1.5 threshold. Additionally, the body does not protect itself from these UVA rays very effectively, meaning indoor tanning can cause serious damage to your skin. If you are unaware of the difference between UVA and UVB rays, you may be thinking that just being exposed to UVA in a tanning bed is better than both, right? Wrong! While UVB rays contribute to sunburns superficially in the skin, UVA rays are Aging you prematurely. Penetrating deep into the dermis, UVA light starts to break down collagen and elastin in the thickest layer of our skin. This creates wrinkles, and causes dehydration and uneven skin tone!
Stop subjecting yourself to the harmful, and useless, “base tan.” We know you want to be tan for that summer vacation, but no matter how long you stay out in the sun, you simply cannot change your skin type with sun exposure. Melanin, the pigment that accounts for the range of human skin color, is protective. Therefore, fair-skinned people are at a higher risk because their skin produces less melanin. Even darker-skinned people, though they can tolerate much more exposure, need protection too. Long story short, get a spray tan for that summer glow.
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