To get to the bottom of why a “base tan” is completely unsafe and irrational, let’s talk about why we tan and what happens to our skin when we tan.
When we’re out in the sun it can take as little as 5 minutes to acquire UV damage. Once we’ve been out in the sun without sun protection for a small amount of time, the skin begins to get UV damage and the melanocytes produce pigment to help the skin adapt to its harsh conditions. This is a protection mechanism that the skin uses to prevent oxidative stress. What triggers when an abnormal event happens in the body? The immune system. Say it with me, the process of tanning or getting a sunburn is an immune response and should be taken seriously.
There are several effects that happen when we get sun damage. One thing that happens when we get UV damage is free radical damage. Free radicals cause oxidative stress which can damage your skin cells, proteins, and DNA. This not only leads to premature aging, but can also lead to severe, lingering skin discoloration and redness. While these are the cosmetic effects, there are also some more harmful effects, such as skin cancer. Skin cancer typically starts out as something called Actinic Keratosis. Actinic Keratosis are raised, scaly, and rough textured spots on the skin that can develop from too much sun exposure and are caused by the abnormal growth of cells. Unfortunately, sometimes these can turn into skin cancer, so it’s really important to get these checked if you notice something that doesn’t look right.
The impact of UV rays on the skin has been thoroughly studied, which gives us pretty clear data to look at. In studies it has been shown that tanning before the age of 35 increases your risk of developing skin cancer by 75% and that tanning in a tanning bed once in your 20s increases your risk by 20%. It’s pretty crazy right? Now let’s look at the “base tan” theory. A “base tan” provides you with a sun protection factor of 2-4. The minimum SPF recommendation lands at a 15 and results from the “base tan” theory have made it pretty clear that it doesn’t lead to any sun protection. So save yourself the premature aging, hyperpigmentation, and skin cancer risk, and just find an SPF that works for you.
Think of using SPF as just another way to keep yourself healthy. People workout and eat healthy to prevent a number of things - arthritis, heart disease, etc., so why not wear an SPF to help prevent skin cancer, premature aging, and hyperpigmentation? It’s really simple and while it could seem tedious at times, we’re certain it will not be a decision you regret in the long run. We can also help make this process easier by finding an SPF that you actually like and don’t hate to apply.
That means something a little different to everyone, but here are a few options that we like:
EverEden Sheer Botanical Facial Sunscreen SPF 30 - a great physical SPF option that is more of a fluid rather than a lotion. It’s easy to apply and has minimal white cast. It also contains sunflower seed oil and jojoba oil, both of which are easily absorbed into the skin and help regulate oil production by mimicking our skin’s natural sebum.
Supergoop! Glow Stick Sunscreen SPF 50 - looking for something easy? How about something that leaves a beautiful, but not oily glow on the skin? This super easy application of sunscreen will be your new best friend. Alongside being incredibly convenient to apply, this SPF also contains a blend of anti-inflammatory and skin conditioning oils.
HydroPeptide Solar Defense Non-Tinted Sunscreen SPF 50 - another wonderful physical SPF option, this one contains matricia flower extract and cucumber extract to soothe the skin. It also has niacinamide to help brighten and hyaluronic acid to hydrate. Fun fact, this also has a tinted version!