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Do you need a base tan?

Do you need a base tan?

Do you need a base tan before you travel or spend time out in the sun?  Here is the bottom line:

I think we can all agree that basking in baby oil under the glow of a foil screen is a bad idea. And we’re going to guess (or at least hope) that as you plan your spring getaways, sunglasses and SPF are at the top of your packing list. Still, if you’re like a lot of American women, getting a “base tan” may still be part of your travel-prep plan. But it shouldn’t be.

The base tan myth goes a little something like this: ’I’m going to Florida and I don’t want to get burned while I’m there, so I’m going to the tanning salon to get some ‘base color,’ explains Tim Turnham, Ph.D, executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation. If that wasn’t bad enough, what happens next is worse: “Then, once they’re on vacation, that person thinks they aren’t at risk for burns and they spend their time in the sun unprotected. Nothing could be further from the truth,” says Dr. Turnham.

What is a tan?

Tan skin is actually the result of the skin’s defenses kicking in. When ultraviolet light hits the skin, it damages the DNA in the skin cells, causing them to send out an emergency signal—melanin, or pigment—to the surface to protect the cells. In other words, when you have a tan, the tan is happening because the DNA has already been damaged, says Dr. Turnham.

Furthermore, past damage, like a base tan, doesn’t protect you from a future sunburn. In fact, it makes you even more susceptible to the other effects of sun damage—like wrinkles and skin cancer—that don’t show up right away, Dr. Turnham says.

Bottom line: There’s no such thing as a safe tan—damaged skin is damaged skin. So for heaven’s sake, skip the base tan thinking and slather on the sun block. Your skin will thank you.

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