Consumer Reports: Can a "base tan" help prevent sunburns?

True or false? A base tan is a good way to prevent sunburn. Consumer Reports is setting the record straight.

Unfortunately, this myth is false. Having a suntan does next to nothing when it comes to protecting your skin.

"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," said Trisha Calvo, Health Editor for Consumer Reports.

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. And 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," said Calvo.

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

The Environmental Working Group has also published a guide to help consumers find sunscreens with safe ingredients.

And if you decide to get your tan the safer way by using a temporary self-tanning cream or lotion, remember that a fake tan offers zero protection from UV damage, so still be sure to put on that sunscreen.
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