With summer vacations on the horizon, we’re hearing a lot more buzz around the idea of a good “base tan.” This longstanding myth about healthy tanning follows the idea that getting a base of color on the skin reduces the risk of a burn when vacation time comes around. Small doses of natural sunlight and tanning beds are common ways that people obtain the subtle glow they think will somehow protect them when the time comes to spend loads of time in the sunshine.
Here’s what you need to know.
A base tan is hardly protective. The color on the skin has an SPF of 3 or less. If you were to gain that SPF of 3, it would now take about 30 minutes for your sunburn to begin where, without the tan, it may take only 10 minutes. Remember, 3 is the high number here. If you have less than that (and there’s no way to measure), your skin will start to burn pretty quickly.
Tanning bed use to get some pre-summer or pre-vacation color is even more dangerous than lying in the sunshine. Tanning beds lamps are predominantly UVA light. According to one study, UVA light from tanning lamps was measured four times more intense than mid-day sun exposure. The same study measured that UVB light from lamps was twice as intense as mid-day sunshine. Both UVA and UVB rays harm the skin. UVA rays cause skin cancer, including melanoma.
UVA and UVB rays are ultraviolet light. Another way to describe it is ultraviolet radiation. UV radiation is essentially carcinogenic. The American Academy of Dermatology warns that it takes only one blistering sunburn to nearly double the risk of developing melanoma. Tanning bed use before age 35 increases this risk by 75%. The risks of less severe but still concerning cancers such as squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma increase 67% and 29%, respectively.
There is No Such Thing as a Healthy Glow
When it comes to tanning the skin, we’ve got to repeat that there is no way to do so in a healthy manner. As you head out for summertime fun, remember that broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 is necessary. Sunscreen is also not a once-and-done treatment. It is necessary to reapply every 90 minutes or so. Additionally, skin checks with your dermatologist provide insights into your current and future risks for skin cancer.