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Reality Check: Base Tans Are Not a Good Idea

Feeling good because you've gotten your base tan for the summer? You may want to think again.

As it turns out, the notion of a base tan has no real medical value. I know it holds a convincing argument: get a base now so that you don't burn later. Heck I've definitely fallen for it for a few Summers myself; it seems like the healthy thing to do. The truth is that there is nothing healthy about a tan — no matter how you get it (well, unless it came from a bottle). A recent editorial piece on MSNBC tells it like it is when it comes to base tanning and brings us back down to reality. My favorite quote is the following:

A tan, Dr. William James, a professor of dermatology at Penn., said, represents nothing more than damage to the skin. It is the body trying to defend itself against an environmental hazard — too much UV light. In other words, indoor tanning gets you ready for the beach in the same way that getting scalded in a hot tub gets you ready to be boiled alive.

Gross, eh? Trust me, I like to look tan as much as the next person. I have inner dialogs with myself about it every time I hit the beach. But then I hear quotes like this from dermatologists and it reminds me that a tan, while popular by fashion industry standards, is really nothing more than damaged skin. And to me, nothing is cool about damaging the largest organ in my body. What do you guys think? Are you still going to be basing?


Join The Conversation
kdhtan kdhtan 9 years
I would like to think that you care about your body since you are posting on a fitness site, right? Well, if you are into health and fitness you should do a search on Vitamin D and look into all the wonderful benefits of Vitamin D and then you will also see how many people are Vitamin D deficent. Here are just a few Vitamin D facts for you. The futher you live from the equator the longer exposure you need to the sun in order to generate vitamin D. People with dark skin pigmentation may need 20 to 30 times more exposure to sunlight than fair skinned people to generate the same amount of Vitamin D Even weak sunscreens (SPF 8)block your body's ability to generate vitamin d by 95%. So the only way to actually increase vitamin d production in your body is smart exposure to the sun. Scientists say anywhere from 15 minutes 2 to 3 times per week to one hour per day depending on your skin color, but always avoiding the sun's peak hours (10am to 3pm). Adequate amounts of unfiltered sunlight are critical to good health. If it hurts to press firmly on your sternum, you may be suffering from chronic vitamin D deficiency right now Your risk of developing a serious disease like diabetes and cancer is REDUCED 50% - 80% through simple, sensible exposure to sunlight 2-3 times each week. I hope you take this information to heart and work on your healthy vitamin D production!!!!!
bunz1969 bunz1969 9 years
While citing an article on MSNBC in your editorial to discourage any form of tanning, the responsible thing to do would also be to cite a MSNBC article telling the "other side". The following article:, entitled "Sunscreen can block Vitamin D" gives your readers some facts regarding Vitamin D and how staying out of the sun (our greatest supplier of Vitamin D) entirely can have negative effects on our health. I don't think that anyone would disagree with you that burning the skin is bad for you. But there is such a thing as a healthy, moderated way to tan. Don't always believe everything you hear from the sunscreen manufacturer's. Do the research yourself and you'll find that there is a lot THEY don't want you to know.
RCK3 RCK3 9 years
Quotes from a editorial with a Dr name attached are still just an editorial - the opinion of a single person with no facts presented to back it up. We can also find doctors who recommend the use of leaches today. If you look at the facts, base tans do provide some sun protection. Per the Mayo Clinic, a base tan is equal to about SPF 4. Is that enough for most people? Depends on your time in the sun and skin type. I am not saying tanning is for everyone but sunlight is for everyone. Seperate from a base tan providing protection, sunlight is essential for human health. You can find many doctors and research recommending 10-15 minutes of unprotect UV exposure each day to provide your body the Vit D it needs. Do you like an untanned boday? That's fine, but pale does not equal healthy. Responsible sun exposure without allowing your skin to burn is healthy. Get it through carefull outside exposure or via a controlled bed, but be sure to get it somehow.
clubby123 clubby123 9 years
I'm curious, this sunscreen you all are putting on your skin. Is it the same sunscreen that has a known toxin to humans? CDC: Americans Carry Body Burden of Toxic Sunscreen Chemical March 25, 2008 EWG Statement on Latest FDA Proposed Sunscreen Safety Standards Consumer Products Caving to Industry, FDA Delays Safety Standards for Decades By Rebecca Sutton, March 2008 Read the press release. 25 MAR 2008 A new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that 97% of Americans are contaminated with a widely-used sunscreen ingredient called oxybenzone that has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage. A companion study published just one day earlier revealed that this chemical is linked to low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy. Oxybenzone is also a penetration enhancer, a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin. Although oxybenzone is most common in sunscreen, companies also use the chemical in at least 567 other personal care products. Environmental Working Group identified nearly 600 sunscreens sold in the U.S. that contain oxybenzone, including products by Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone, and Banana Boat (see the full list of 588 sunscreens here) as well as 172 facial moisturizers, 111 lip balms, and 81 different types of lipstick. The Food and Drug Administration has failed miserably in its duty to protect the public from toxic chemicals like oxybenzone in personal care products. At the request of industry lobbyists, including Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who represented the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association, the agency has delayed final sunscreen safety standards for nearly 30 years. FDA issued a new draft of the standards last October under pressure from EWG, but continues to delay finalizing them at the behest of the regulated industry. EWG research shows that 84% of 910 name-brand sunscreen products offer inadequate protection from the sun, or contain ingredients, like oxybenzone, with significant safety concerns.
Spectra Spectra 9 years
I'm very fair and I do NOT tan. I burn super fast, so I'm always wearing sunscreen when I go outside. If I do want to have a tan, I use the tan-in-a-bottle. It's pretty safe because it basically just stains the top layer of your skin to make it look tan. That's why you have to reapply it fairly often. I find that if I don't reapply it, my skin looks blotchy after a few days as the top layer sloughs off.
KathleenxCouture KathleenxCouture 9 years
I just bought a fabulous sunblock/tanning oil. It's got SPF15 in it and i didn't burn AT ALL with it on. I was in the sun for an hour and usually that would burn me a bit (i'm one of those people that has fair skin and burns and then a day later i'm miraculously golden with no traces of burn..weird i know.) Anyways it's either banana boat or Hawaiian tropic. It's a tanning oil with SPF 15 and it goes up to 30 i believe. Works like a charm for staying safe in the sun but getting a bit of a tan at the same time.
Faylinn Faylinn 9 years
gooniette: try exfoliating. It'll quicken the process of removing the surface skin cells. As for me, I'm with all of you. I do not tan (well, intentionally). Seeing burnt skin just makes me cringe; it's not pretty at all!
Swedeybebe Swedeybebe 9 years
nope, no basing for me! skin cancer runs in my family. i've learned to love jergen's natural glow lotion.
Le-Luxe Le-Luxe 9 years
I try not to be outside without sunscreen as much as possible because I really don't want to look like I am 60 when I am 40. But I do love being tan :(
graduatedsqueaks graduatedsqueaks 9 years
heck no, I wont be going for a base tan or anything. When I'm outside, I usually have sunscreen, am in the shade, or both. Even when I lie outside to read, I find shade. I'm guessing this might also have something to do with the fact that my dad worked at a company that made we always had it available!
gabiushka gabiushka 9 years
It still is good to get some UVB rays for about 10 mins a day for vitamin D, but say no to UVA.
anna_muffin anna_muffin 9 years
I meant "Fit" of course, not "Fab".
gooniette gooniette 9 years
I've been trying to put on lots of sunscreen when I'm outdoors to avoid tan lines. I'm wearing a strapless dress later this summer... I did get a little burn this weekend though (even with multiple applications of sunscreen) and am praying that the lines fade by August. Any tips on how to get rid of tan lines?
anna_muffin anna_muffin 9 years
I don't tan either, so I usually end up with very uneven tan from the summer activities I do. But it's my sister's wedding this year, so I decided to get a nicer tan "from a bottle" (body lotion with gradual self-tanning effect), but I'm not really sure it's healthy. Do you have some info that leads you to assume that it is healthier than "normal" tanning, Fab?
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
I am also Tanless and proud. I am 34 years old, perfect skin youthful and healthy, I always look at people who tan and shake my head because in my eyes it doesnt look like a healthy glow, it looks like thier skin has a big old ouchy.
livyourlife livyourlife 9 years
I always wear sunscreen, but I can't avoid getting a tan, I just got back from the lake, and why would I stay inside when I could be kneeboarding, waterskiing, on the boat, etc?
kiwitwist kiwitwist 9 years
Oh my!!! I just got a base tan in hopes that it would save me from burning. :faint:
Renees3 Renees3 9 years
I'm a burner, not a tanner, but my mom tans no matter what. She applies suncreen 3 times a day at least and still gets color. But she knows it's sun damage and hates it.
latent latent 9 years
I don't try to get a tan either, but like alethia, my activities take me outside. SPF30+ and consistent reapplications and I still tan. I'm not going to live in a cave for the rest of my life, so I simply take reasonable precautions.
alethia037 alethia037 9 years
I don't ever "try" to get a tan... I am not one for laying out at the beach or the pool. That being said, I spend a whole lot of time in the sun. I surf, wakeboard, swim, run, and fish every free moment I have. So, I spend a lot of time in a bathing suit. No matter how much sunscreen I apply, I still get tan. I don't burn, because I am a 30spf every hour fanatic, but there is obviously still some damage being done to my sun-kissed skin.
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
I'm tanless and proud! I don't tan easily, but I do burn easily. I tend to stay in the shade and bathe in sunblock. I can't wait to be old and wrinkle free.
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