With summer just around the corner, and people wondering about tanning before jet-setting off on hot holidays, it’s time to address Base Tans. Are they just there to make you look Instagram ready for day one of your holiday, or is there more to this aesthetic than just looks?
What is a Base Tan?
A Base Tan is gained through regular, short sessions using sunbeds. This accelerates your tanning process and builds resistance to the sun due to increased melanin in the skin (tanning). This causes your skin pigmentation to darken. Usually, a Base Tan is built up two to three weeks before people go on holiday, or just in preparation for the summer.
TIP: we recommend only using sunbeds which are 0.3 compliant. This means that the lamps comply with European regulations and the UV output will be the equivalent to the Mediterranean midday sun.
Benefits of a Base Tan
A Base Tan encourages your skin to produce melanin, darkening your skin tone. Not only is this great for that first day poolside, but this benefits you in three different ways.
Firstly, a tan increases your pigmentation. This increase in melanin can equate to applying SPF 4, allowing you to spend four times as long in the sun without protection. This provides an extra safeguard against skin damage after you have applied a suncream.
A Base Tan also causes the skin to thicken (acanthosis), which makes you more resistant to the sun, as you are readied for increased UV exposure. Spending long periods of time in the sun could be dangerous if your skin is not prepared, as irregular sun exposure is the most likely way of causing long-term skin damage - your skin is less likely to be protected by a deepened colour or thicker layers built by a Base Tan.
In fact, researchers, Petersen et al. explain that many Northern European populations, like us, will usually get 1/4 of their annual sun exposure in a two week window on holiday. This is due to our determination to transcend from ghostly pale to golden tan whilst on holiday. This can ultimately end up causing skin damage as we don't allow our skin long enough rest periods between tanning sessions when on holiday and typically have not bared our skin to any UV exposure since the summer before. Therefore by building a Base Tan, you ready your skin for this increased sun exposure.
Plus, by building a tan, there will be an increased concentration of vitamin D in your skin. This encourages DNA repair, allowing your skin to repair and regenerate faster. This increase in vitamin D seems to be more beneficial for later tanning sessions rather than initial UV exposure. Therefore, by building a Base Tan, you increase your vitamin D levels, ready for your holiday.
Top tips to building a safe, healthy Base Tan
When building up a Base Tan, there are certain things that will ensure the most successful tanning process with the healthiest skin results. An important thing to always remember, is healthy skin will always tan better than dry, dull skin. So making sure you prep your skin well will always ensure a better tanning session.
- Start using sunbeds for short periods of time. The time spent should be in relation to your skin type. Increase the time spent tanning slowly over a few weeks.
- When building your tan, ensure that you give your skin enough time between tanning sessions to recover fully. For people with skin types 3 and above, UV exposure should be avoided for 24 hours as a minimum after tanning. For people with skin type 2, it is advised to leave a minimum of 48 hours between tanning sessions. For people with skin type 1, it is strongly recommended that indoor tanning is avoided completely. To find out your tanning skin type, check out our blog here.
- Once you begin tan maintenance rather than Base Tan building, tan twice a week as a maximum.
- Use professional tanning lotions when on a sunbed. These have been designed with the intense UV exposure in mind and help to keep skin moisturised, rejuvenated and nourished. Tanning lotions are also filled with vitamins, antioxidants and top quality skincare ingredients to keep skin healthy.
- Don’t overexpose EVER - whilst building a Base Tan, you need to start off gently, as your skin will not be accustomed to the UV exposure. This also includes avoiding sunlight after a tanning session. If you use a sunbed, your UV exposure will be controlled. So if you then spend lots of time in the sun, it would be completely detrimental to the tanning process - Your UV exposure would no longer be controlled.
- Carry on using an SPF once you have accrued your Base Tan. Although a Base Tan will provide you with sun protection, this protection is minimal and will only diminish the likelihood of burning if coupled with an SPF.
- Moisturise, moisturise and then moisturise some more - keep skin hydrated as this will hold onto your tan longer as well as keep your skin healthier. This will also mean that your skin will not reflect light and improve your ability to tan. We recommend using a Tan Extender to ensure a long-lasting tan. Certain shop-bought moisturisers contain alcohol and other ingredients which can strip you tan, making it not last as long as possible.
Masona, R.S et al. (2010) Photoprotection by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D and analogs: Further studies on mechanisms and implications for UV-damage, Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology: 121, 164-168