Whether you’re trying to avoid a sunburn or, you know, skin cancer, starting the summer with a tan doesn’t really help. Photo by Alex Liivet.
That tan only gives you protection of about SPF 4. While that’s better than nothing, you’re better off applying real sunscreen than spending the spring working on your “base tan”, especially if you achieve it by being a regular at the tanning salon.
Tanning beds are considered carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. That’s a more dangerous category than where they put the pesticide glyphosate, and the same category as cigarette smoke. (How does IARC make their decisions? Here’s a handy Here’s a handy video explaining that.)
Even if that tan protects a little against the UVB rays that cause sunburn, it does nothing against the UVA rays that cause your skin to thicken and wrinkle over the years. Both types of rays are implicated in cancer. So for full protection, slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen, and don’t rely on your base tan.