Medical Misconception: A Base Tan Prevents Sunburn

Each month, a health care professional will weigh in on a health and wellness myth and will explain the real cause behind the malady.

This month’s misconception: a base tan prevents sunburn.

In preparation for the summer months or an upcoming beach vacation, some people think that getting a ‘base’ tan will help prevent sunburn.

Studies have been conducted to test this theory. The rates of burning were comparable between those who had a base tan and those who did not, though those who had tan skin did have a skin protection factor (SPF) of 2 or 3.

However, tan skin is not healthy skin. When the skin changes color from sun exposure, it is going through a healing process. Any redness or increase in pigment is showing damage to the skin, increasing the risks of premature aging and skin cancer.

Another myth is being able to get a ‘safe’ tan by using a tanning bed. Ultraviolet A rays are used in tanning beds and, while they are less likely to burn your skin, they actually penetrate deeper into the skin, causing more long-term damage.

To protect your skin, generously apply sunblock with an SPF of 30, and make sure to reapply every few hours, in addition to wearing protective clothing, wide-brim hats and sunglasses.

Brenda Schneider, P.A.-C., sees patients at Westminster Dermatology.

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