Is it safe to 'base tan' before a vacation?

If your summer vacation plans include time out in the nice, warm sun, you might be thinking of getting a base tan to help prevent sunburn. But, Consumer Reports says that might not be a good idea and could be more harmful than helpful.

Having a base tan does next to nothing when it comes to protecting your skin.

Consumer Reports Health Editor Trisha Calvo says, "A tan is actually a sign of skin damage. The sunlight can injure the DNA in skin cells, and that causes them to darken to prevent further damage. However, a base tan will give you far less protection than using sunscreen."

A better way to protect your skin is to practice safe sun strategies.

"It's always a good idea to cover up with sun-protective clothing and a hat," says Calvo. "Always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher on exposed skin. Be sure to apply it 15 minutes before you go outside, and every two hours or after swimming or sweating heavily."

Two of Consumer Reports' top best buy sunscreens are, Equate Walmart Ultra Lotion SPF 50 and Trader Joe's Spray SPF 50-plus.

If you decide to get your tan, the safest way is to use a temporary self-tanning cream or lotion.

But keep in mind, a fake tan offers zero protection from UV damage, so remember to still put on sunscreen.
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