Does a “Base Tan” Help Protect Your Skin?
Your dermatologists at Genesis Dermatology in Jupiter, Florida, are still hearing this from clients: “But we’re going on a beach vacation and we’ll get burned if we go without a base tan.”
MYTH: You need a “base tan” to start the summer season and help protect you against sunburn.
TRUTH: You will be susceptible to a sunburn regardless of whether you have a “base tan” or not. Not to mention you are also damaging your skin and exposing yourself to increased skin cancer risks.
The one grain of truth in this common myth is that you won’t burn as fast. You can spend a bit longer in the sun without getting a sunburn, if you have gradually exposed your skin to ultraviolet (UV) light—either natural or artificial—before going out for long periods in the sun.
This stands to reason: If your skin hasn’t had sun on it all winter, it will turn red faster than if you had been exposing to sun a few minutes at a time. However, suntanned skin will still burn. It just won’t be as immediately apparent. That is, after all, what a “tan” is: visible evidence of damage to the skin by UV light exposure.
Let’s Review Sunscreen Facts
Sunscreens offer what is known as a sun protection factor (SPF). If your sunscreen has, for example, an SPF of 15, that means that if you’d normally burn with ten minutes’ exposure to the sun, an SPF of 15 would allow you to safely stay in the sun for 15 times longer than that, or 150 minutes. Most dermatologists recommend a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, preferably higher, but even the best sunscreens will not prevent sunburn if you stay out in the sun long enough.
There is no question that there is a link between UV exposure and skin cancer. And that doesn’t just mean melanomas, the deadliest kind of skin cancer. Studies have also shown a correlation between UV exposure and squamous cell and basal cell skin cancers. When your skin is exposed to the sun (which is ultraviolet radiation), your DNA forms mutations which lead to melanoma & non-melanoma skin cancers. Eryftona is a plant extract that has some DNA repair enzymes that can help prevent these mutations.
Types of Sun-Damage
But what about other kinds of damage? If you’re concerned about keeping your skin younger-looking and healthy, UV exposure is definitely the wrong way to go about it.
Whether from the sun or a tanning booth, UV light causes DNA mutations that damage the elastin in your skin that supports it, causing it to stretch and eventually to lose the ability to snap back into place, thus forming wrinkles. It also affects the skin’s ability to heal, resulting in freckles, benign tumors, mottled areas of the skin (either red or brown), small, red “spider veins” concentrated primarily on the upper cheeks and nose (telangiectasias), and an overall yellow discoloration of the skin, not to mention the thinning of the outer layer (epidermis) that lends sun-exposed skin that papery appearance.
- Avoid exposing your skin to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest.
- Avoid indoor tanning beds completely.
- Forget about a “base tan.” It won’t prevent sunburn and will damage your skin.
- Cover up exposed skin with tightly-woven fabrics or those designed to provide UV protection (including on your head) while outdoors. Wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF (preferably with zinc oxide) whenever you are outdoors, even on cloudy days. Apply it 10 to 15 minutes before going outside, and reapply it every two hours — more often if you’re swimming or perspiring heavily. You can try the Isdin Eryfotona which has Zinc Oxide SPF 50, plus DNA repair enzymes.
- Be aware that UV rays can not only penetrate glass, but can “bounce” under beach umbrellas and reflect off of concrete surfaces.
If you have any questions about the best way to protect your skin to preserve its youthful appearance as well as avoid skin cancer, do not hesitate to talk to your dermatologist.
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