Q. We are planning a beach trip for spring break. Is there any benefit in trying to get a “base tan” before we go? Will this help prevent sunburn?
A “base tan” is a suntan obtained gradually with several short exposures to ultraviolet light, either from a tanning bed or natural sunlight. It is a myth that a base tan is a safe alternative to sunscreen. In fact, suntans are the result of UVA and UVB radiation that penetrates the skin and causes skin damage.
Although getting out in the sunshine is healthy, prolonged sun exposure can lead to premature aging and skin cancer. Skin damage caused by the sun cannot be reversed.
So rather than work on a base tan, consider the following recommendations before taking the family to the beach:
Apply a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher that contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
Limit sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Keep infants out of the sun.
Re-apply sunscreen every hour. This is especially important for children and teenagers who are spending more time in the sun and water.
Wear sun-protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat when possible.