The Myth of Getting a "Base Tan" from a Tanning Bed

Cynthia Bailey, MD|March 23, 2015

iStock_000031062428_Large To tan or not to tan, that is the question...

Should you get a “base tan” from tanning beds before spring break?

Will it help prevent a sun burn?

Is it a "safe" tan?

The answers are No, No, No!!  AND, you need to know WHY. Tanning bed rays are UVA and they will wrinkle your skin like a basset hound in no time. Tanning bed UV rays will also spot your skin up like a dalmatian The basset hound-d1339704102278_1110321almatian skin is PERMANENT, meaning you'll have it for the rest of your life! Let me explain. UVA is the ray in tanning beds; it's also out in the morning and late afternoon too (all day really). It deeply penetrates your skin, causing permanent damage to your cells and activation of genes that start a cascade of collagen breakdown (which is the cause of wrinkles). That cascade will go on forever – yes, even if you stay out of the sun in the future, you will keep getting more and more wrinkles once this really gets started. Tanning bed UVA does NOT stimulate your skin to make more melanin, it just "reorganizes" what you already have. Your skin looks darker but it has NO MORE melanin to protect you from the sunburn ray (called UVB) that fries you at the beach. Know that the presence of any tan means that your DNA has been damaged and wrinkles are coming because of UV exposure. Yes, damaged DNA makes skin cancers, which means that in addition to a steady increase of wrinkles and liver spots, you are also setting yourself up for disfiguring skin cancers and cancer surgery scars in the future too. And, yes, it can start with spring break! How can you enjoy spring break without the future wrinkles, liver spots, and cancer scars? It's not all bad news; it's just news for you to use. Here is what you do: Buy yourself a good-looking sun hat (full circumference 3 inch or more brim that covers the top of your scalp too, click here to see how to pick a good-looking trustworthy sun hat). Wear the hat! Buy yourself a new tube of broad spectrum SPF 15 or higher sunscreen. I only trust mineral zinc sunscreens. Reapply every 2 hours when you are in the sun and after swimming or sweating. Sunscreen expires so get new sunscreen now. Click here to pick the right one for your skin type. Wear cool UV-blocking sun glasses; you probably have these already, right? Wear cool-looking cover clothing. Yep, figure this out then wear the clothes.  You can wash SunGuard into tee shirts or a long sleeved button down shirt and use it as a cover up. Be creative. Grab the shade when you can. Who are those "other people" (OPs) out in the full sun – hot, sweaty, and destined to wrinkle like a basset hound? Bummer they didn't get the memo about how dumb that is! Be unique! Make your own fashion statement out of sun protection! You'll be the one at your 10-year and 20-year reunions that looks fantastic.

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