Sun Tanning | Base Tan

Nature's Sunscreen

The primary goal of every trained tanning professional is to teach sunburn prevention to every client. Building a gradual suntan actually creates two different forms of natural protection against sunburn:

  • Melanin pigment is produced in outer skin cells after being exposed to sunlight. Melanin literally enshrouds and shields skin cells in the epidermis, protecting each cell from getting too much UV exposure.
  • After sun exposure, Extra keratin migrates to the surface of the skin, thickening it, which makes the skin naturally more resistant to sunburn.

These two steps combine to create a powerful natural sunscreen that doesn’t wash off quickly. One benefit of indoor tanning is that trained operators can give a tanner controlled UV exposure to gradually develop this sunscreen – often called a “base tan” – while minimizing the risk of sunburn.

The value of a base tan, as millions of sunbed users know, is that it adds another layer to your sunburn protection arsenal – making chemical sunscreen worn outdoors for outings on sunny days even more effective at preventing sunburn. Here’s how that works:

  • The effectiveness of chemical sunscreen products are measured in what is called “Sun Protection Factor” (or SPF). An SPF 15 product means a user can spend 15 times longer in the sun while wearing sunscreen before they would sunburn if applied correctly.
  • Say, for example, a sunbed user begins tanning under the direction of a trained salon operator following the exposure schedule of that piece of equipment (average start time 2 to 3 minutes). After about a month that tanner may gradually develop a tan and works her/his way up to the maximum session time. At this point, she/he becomes naturally up to SIX TIMES more resilient to sunburn than when she first started tanning. So that tan has an SPF 6 value (BC Health Ministry Report 2012).
  • When someone with a base tan uses sunscreen outdoors, they essentially multiply the sunburn-prevention effectiveness of the sunscreen. In other words, an SPF 15 product applied to the skin correctly of a person whose base tan has already made her six times more resilient to sunburn creates a net SPF of 60. (SPF 15 x 6 = SPF 90).

That’s the reason so many indoor tanning clients come to salons in the winter and spring prior to sunny vacations. In sunny environments many fair-skinned people can sunburn during normal outdoor activities even while wearing chemical sunscreen. But with a base tan their chemical sunscreen becomes more effective and they are much less likely to sunburn.

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