The Myth of the "Base Tan"

MakenzieR on 29 May 2012 at 4:00pm

tanning bed dangers

I grew up with a doctor-father who made me apply sunscreen by the book to protect my skin. Wait 30 minutes before sun or water. Reapply every two hours. Wear hats at the beach. Imagine my surprise ten years later when he's preparing for a trip to Fiji and is suddenly tan before he leaves.

"It's a base tan," he said. "My skin is so pale from winter -- this way I won't burn on our first day in Fiji."

It makes sense when you first think about it, and I've since heard many otherwise tanning-averse people say they were just "getting a base tan for vacation."

Indoor-tanning increases the risks of skin cancer and causes skin to age faster. But lately I've been pondering on this: do the benefits of getting a base tan to prevent sunburn outweigh the known risks of tanning beds?

I posed this to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, and their answer is clear:

No. Numerous studies have shown that indoor tanning holds no benefits. Some of the false claims include that indoor tanning is a safe way to acquire needed Vitamin D or creates a “base tan” to protect against sunburn. Scientific studies have proven these claims to be untrue. “Base tans” do not protect against sunburns and only increase your risk of skin cancer.

Sunscreen, hats, clothing and other skin protection products are the only effective ways to protect your skin from sun damage.

I think my dad gave up his base tan belief a while ago, but I'm glad to have this information for my own good. It's never fun to think you'll be on a beach full of tan people with winter-white legs. But, that's what self-tanners and spray tans are for!

If you're ever feeling self-conscious about rocking a pale hue in a swimsuit, consider something else ASDS said:

"Most people consider tan skin to be healthy and youthful looking, but it’s just the opposite. It indicates the skin has been injured from UV rays that penetrate deeply and damage collagen and elastic tissue that give the skin elasticity."

Do you think un-tanned skin will ever be seen as healthier than a "healthy tan glow"?

sun tanning


Photo credit: Mark Carper/Deposit Photos; Olga Khoroshunova/Deposit photos