By Joseph Levy
For 28 years, I’ve written about and crusaded for base tans, showing objectively how science clearly supports what we do in professional sunbed centers. And for the last eight years, I’ve given talks about base tans on behalf of the American Suntanning Association in 45 state capitals and Washington D.C., explaining how they are an important part of the arsenal against sunburn.
This month, I’d like to tell you about how I personally put that into practice. Here’s the story of three long-time friends of mine, each of whom call me just about every spring to get sun-care advice before their sunny vacations.
Science supports the importance of a base tan as part of the arsenal against sunburn.
The first, Dr. Mike Hood, a veterinarian from Michigan, calls me just about every spring before vacationing for a week with his wife somewhere in the tropics. With Skin Type II, he used to sunburn even when wearing sunscreen. Now, he follows my advice and prepares by developing a base tan with at least ten salon visits over a three-week period and never sunburns on his trips.
A few years ago, Hood went to Hawaii for a week but forgot to follow our pre-trip program, figuring his skin would be ready for the subtropics after a summer of Michigan sun exposure. A painful sunburn reminded him that a tan, with sunscreen, is effective when sunscreen alone isn’t. “I was glad to get back on the program after that and I did great,” he told me.
The second friend, Michigan restaurateur Tim Kenrick, called me for the first time a few years ago before taking a tropical vacation. Tim, like me, has Type II skin, no hair on the top of his head and has sunburned before on sun-drenched outings. I set him up with a regimen of eight sunbed sessions in just under three weeks before the trip.
“It worked amazingly well,” he told me upon his return. “If I had not asked for your counsel, I’m sure it would have been brutal.” With the base tan and SPF 15 applied each morning before heading out for the day, Tim never burned on his trip – only occasionally wearing a hat. He returned with what his kids said was the best tan he’d ever had.
A third friend, Lis, also called me before visiting Arizona last spring. (She didn’t follow my pre-trip advice, so I’m not going to use her full name. )
Also Skin Type II, Lis wasn’t even trying to tan when she sunburned. She just went out on her sunny patio in Capri pants and put her legs up while waiting for a friend to get ready to go out. “I didn’t think I’d be that long,” she said, recalling lobster-red sunburn on her calves that eventually peeled.
My friends Mike and Tim returned from their trips tanned and rested. Stimulating the production of melanin in Type II skin before a sunny vacation means that your first day out will oxidize the melanin you’ve already produced in the sunbed even before you step off the plane. Lis gets this now – it took some first-aid for her to learn her lesson the hard way.
And as for me, personally? Last spring and summer, I trained for and ran my first full marathon – The Chicago Marathon in October. I never wear a hat when I run, and a base tan and proper application of sunscreen on long runs (put it on 30 minutes before you step outside if you know you need it) means I have never sunburned my bald head while running. And since I live and run at 5,900 feet elevation west of sunny Denver, that’s a pretty decent accomplishment.
My sunny Chicago Marathon run – about six hours on the Lakefront Trail with a mid-range UV Index – ended without injury … to my legs or my skin.
I practice what I preach and it works.
Joseph Levy is director of scientific affairs for American Suntanning Association.
Founded in 2012, the American Suntanning Association is committed to defending and growing the industry through a detailed and proactive plan directed by an all-salon board and executed by more than two dozen management and consulting team members who specialize in this type of work.
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