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does a base tan protect you from sunburn?

Tanning season starts early on the Outer Banks, and inquiring minds want to know if laying down a base tan before hitting the beach for real will keep you from getting burned. This informative and pretty funny piece by Dina Fine Maro for Scientific American gives us the answer, and we love that they used pale posteriors for the study!

girls on the beach

Image courtesty Creative Commons:Flickr

“As the weather warms, many of us would prefer to look like we passed our winter days lounging by the pool instead of hunched before a computer screen or lab bench. But soaking up the rays to acquire a so-called “base tan” does not fool the sun or a tanning bed. Simply put, the benefits of being sun-kissed are not even skin-deep.

Scientists came to this conclusion after studying the tanned buttocks of dozens of volunteers. In study after study they have found that a base tan affords almost no protection against future ultraviolet exposure. In fact, it actually puts otherwise pale people at risk of developing skin cancers. A base tan only provides an SPF, or sun protection factor, of 3 or less, according to the U.S. surgeon general. For beachgoers, that means if a person would normally turn pink after 10 minutes in the sun, an SPF 2 base tan would theoretically buy her another 10 minutes—or 20 minutes in total—before she burns. That, says David Leffell, the chief of dermatologic surgery and cutaneous oncology at Yale University School of Medicine, is “completely meaningless” in terms of providing protection.”

Read the rest of this fascinating article on Scientific American!

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