There is no such thing as a safe or protective tan; any tan at all is a sign of skin damage.

What happens when I tan?

Tanning of human skin is one of our natural defense mechanisms and comes from the body’s attempt to repair any damage and prevent further injury caused by overexposure to the sun. Overuse of this defense mechanism could potentially lead to imperfect or incomplete repairs, resulting in gene defects and ultimately the formation of skin cancer.

Will a ‘base tan’ protect me from skin cancer?

Any tan is an indicator of overexposure to the sun. Although many factors play a role, it is generally accepted that people with naturally darker skin have a stronger natural defence mechanism to skin damage from the sun. This is due to darker skin having more eumelanin, a dark pigment that helps control our hair, eye, and skin colour. Eumelanin is naturally protective and levels are dictated by our natural skin colour.

A lighter skinned person will always have less ability to produce the protective eumelanin than a dark skinned person. While a “base tan” might offer a modest increase in sun protection, its development is proof that our natural defence mechanism has been activated. Frequent activation of this defence could lead to overuse and ultimately the formation of skin cancer.

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