Do base tans really protect you? No, here's why

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Let's say you're getting ready for spring break, but you worry about burning once you get out of the Michigan clouds. Does getting a so-called "base tan" protect you? 

The answer from the dermatologist is a hard and fast no.

"There's no such thing as a safe tan," says Grekin Skin Institute Dermatologist Dr. Steven Grekin. 

He admits he knows many of us enjoy a little sun-induced color -- but getting a base tan isn't the answer. 

"Remember, what is the tanning bed? Ultraviolet radiation. It causes damage," he says. "So the idea that damaging your skin to protect you from more damage just doesn't make any sense."

In fact, British scientists studied the "protection" you get from a base tan by having young healthy adults expose their skin to tanning bed rays for two weeks. The end result was almost zero added protection. 

"They've actually done research on parts that never see the sun (use your imagination). [A base tan] doesn't protect you; it's an SPF of 1.5. A white t-shirt is an SPF of 5," he says. "No tan is a good tan." 

Any tan raises our risk for skin cancer and wrinkles, so Dr. Grekin says to stay safe, wear your sunscreen by day and serum at night. 

"At night, use on some vitamin serums that scavenge the free radicals, take away the damage. Alpha lipolic acid, Vitamin C; all of these things are good tips that can protect your skin," he says. 

Another solution? A spray tan.

"It causes a chemical reaction with the dead skin cells, so it acts a little bit like a barrier," he says. "There's no SPF factor given to sunless tanning so therefore, in the laboratory, it's been proven that it doesn't help you. I think it helps you because it makes you look good; you're not getting extra radiation; you'll then use your sunscreen and you're going to come home looking gorgeous."

Another option is the self-tanning creams. 

To protect your skin, look for a 30 SPF broad spectrum sunscreen. And if you really want to come home with a tan, just get it gradually.