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The myth of the "base tan"

POSTED: July 17, 2014 2:03 p.m.
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It’s a widely held belief that if someone wants to protect their skin from the sun over the summer, they need to have a base tan. But dermatologists say it’s a dangerous myth.

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It’s a widely held belief that if someone wants to protect their skin from the sun over the summer, they need to have a base tan. But dermatologists say it’s a dangerous myth.
When people buy sunscreen, dermatologists recommend they buy either one with SPF 30, or 50 for people with fair skin. However, many people believe a base tan will protect their skin when they go outside.
Dermatologist Lana Pho, M.D., says, “That’s almost the equivalent of an SPF, a sun protective factor, of three.”
According to Pho, there really is no such thing as a “healthy glow.” What many people see as a good looking tan, she says is just the skin producing pigment to try and protect itself from damage it already has from ultraviolet rays.
“[It gives] the patient a false sense of security that they’re protecting themselves. Therefore, when they go on vacation, they incur more and more sun damage,” she adds.
It’s widely known that there are two kinds of ultraviolet rays, UVA and UVB. But, it’s not commonly known how those rays can harm people in different ways. Both can potentially lead to skin cancer, but, the UVA rays can penetrate deeper into the skin.
Pho explains, “The UVA can age you. A for aging. That penetrates deeper and can increase the risk of skin cancer. The UVB can burn you. B for burn.”
She says anyone planning on spending any extended time outdoors needs to use broad spectrum sunscreen. In fact, she recommends people use sunscreen to protect themselves from UV rays even if they’re just taking a long road trip.
“The windshield protects you from the UVB rays. That’s why you don’t feel much of a burn when you’re in a car. But, it does not protect you from the UVA," Pho says.
She also recommends people avoid being out in the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most intense.

 

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