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Can A Base Tan Protect against Sunburn?

Posted on 15 June 2015

can a base tan protect against sunburn

Studies of sunshine-denied buttocks help settle the matter

As the weather warms with more outdoor activities and swimming suits, shorts and tank tops, many of us would love to trade in our pale winter skin for something a little more glowing. But soaking up the rays or tanning bed to aquire a “base tan” can be downright dangerous.

In a series of studies, scientists found that a base tan affords almost no protection against future ultraviolet exposure. In fact, it actually puts otherwise pale people at risk of developing skin cancers.


In a study with 16 young, healthy adults, scientists had the subjects expose their buttocks to simulated sunlight. The volunteers, who had varying shades of pale skin, subjected their behinds to two weeks of daily tanning sessions that exposed them to ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays on par with summer’s noonday sun. 

 Even among people who tanned easily, the tanning sessions gave them “very modest” protection, equivalent to a sunscreen with SPF 2. Dr. David Leffell, the chief of Dermatologic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology at Yale University School of Medicine, says that the base tan that the subjects acquired was “completely meaningless” in terms of providing protection to their skin.

uv exposure

Sustained sun exposure causes premature aging, wrinkling and a cumulative increased risk for skin cancer. And if you think that tanning beds offer a safer tan, think again. Tanning beds have been ranked alongside cigarettes, arsenic and asbestos as posing the greatest threat of cancer to humans. The research, published in the latest edition of The Lancet Oncology medical journal, found using tanning beds could increase the risk of developing cancer by 75 percent, particularly if used by children and young adults. "The risk of skin melanoma is increased by 75 percent when use of tanning devices starts before 30 years of age," said the report.

If you want a healthy glow, there are numerous sunless tanning sprays and products on the market. The safest course of action for your skin and long term health is to use a combination of sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and sun protection clothing.


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