Each year high school and college students around the U.S. take off for sunny destinations around the world to celebrate Spring Break. While these vacations can be a necessary escape from the stress of school, they also spur an increase of unnecessary tanning bed use among teens and young adults trying to obtain a ‘base’ tan prior to their departure.
There are numerous myths created by the tanning industry regarding the supposed benefits of tanning. Last year, the American Academy of Dermatology released results from a survey they conducted to determine if people can separate sun protection facts from myths. One question in the survey asked respondents if it was a fact or myth that getting a base tan is a healthy way to protect skin from sun damage. Only 48 percent of respondents knew the statement was false. A base tan offers the equivalent of an SPF 4 or less, so very little to no protection. The fact is that a tan is a sign of damage to the skin from UV radiation. Every time a person tans, the skin becomes damaged and this damage accumulates over time, which accelerates the skin aging process and increases a person’s risk for skin cancer.
The damage caused by the UV radiation emitted by the sun and tanning beds is often irreversible. Premature skin aging caused by UV exposure includes fine wrinkles, deep grooves, blotchiness, sagging and a leathery texture in the skin. Some of these changes may appear as early as the age of 20 in anyone who has spent a great deal of time exposing their skin to UV radiation during childhood and teen years.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, has undeniably linked tanning bed use among young people to skin cancer including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. They found the link between youthful tanning bed use and melanoma was “prominent and consistent”— a 75 percent increase in risk of melanoma among those who first used tanning beds in their twenties or teen years. The study also found no positive health effects of using a tanning booth, contradicting what tanning salons have used as a selling point.
So, would you like some alternatives to getting a base tan for sun protection during your Spring Break? If you still desire a tan look, get a spray tan or use a self-tanning lotion or spray. But remember that using these methods to create a tan look does not mean you’re immune from sun damage. You should still apply a SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen for UV protection. Otherwise, wear sun protective clothing if you don’t want to worry about reapplying sunscreen frequently.
Our recommended sun protection beach packing list:
- Broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen to cover exposed skin
- Lip balm with SPF
- Wide brim hat (at least three-inches) to protect the head and neck
- UV-blocking sunglasses to protect the eyes
- Swim cover up for extra coverage when desired
- Beach umbrella to help you seek the shade