Spring is here and you may still have fair skin from the winter. Many people believe that getting UV exposure in advance will help you avoid a future sun burn. This mentality leads many to tanning bed visits and unprotected sun exposure. The truth is that a base tan isn’t a good substitute for proper sunscreen use and the risks of long-term tanning do not outweigh the unproven benefits of a base tan.

THE RISKS OF GETTING A BASE TAN IN A TANNING BED

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “No matter what you may hear at tanning salons, the cumulative damage caused by UV radiation can lead to premature skin aging (wrinkles, lax skin, brown spots, and more), as well as skin cancer. In fact, people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent.” Those talks of different types of rays that encourage bronzing vs burning are all putting you at risk for skin cancer. Rather than hitting the tanning bed to prevent a future burn, hit the sunscreen to avoid those harmful rays all together.

WHY SUNSCREEN IS THE ONLY “BASE” YOU NEED

Long story short: tanning can lead to premature aging and skin cancer. Choose a sunscreen with a high SPF (30 or higher) and reapply at least every 2 hours. Reapply more often if you are swimming or perspiring during sports. For maximum protection, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is also water resistant. Apply before going outside, and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before entering into the sunlight to allow your skin to absorb the product. Don’t forget to apply to all of your bare skin including your ears, back, hands, and tops of your feet. For hard to reach places, ask someone for help or use a spray sunscreen. Those with thinning hair should apply sunscreen to their scalp or wear a hat for extra protection.

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO?

Cover up while you’re on vacation. Skin just isn’t meant to be outside unprotected, so if you can’t get to sunscreen, seek shade and clothing that protects you. This tip may be tough when you’re on vacation, but try staying in the shade between 10 a.m and 4 p.m, which is when the sun’s rays are strongest. Wearing clothing that is breathable in the heat as well as a hat that provides plenty of face coverage are great options for outdoor adventures that lack shelter to shield you from the sun.

Your skin is exposed to the sun at all times, even on cloudy days. Stay protected by using sunscreen daily so that you enjoy every day of your spring/vacation rather than being too sun burned to enjoy your time outside.

Citations: https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/tanning