Although it seems to make sense, the base tan concept is actually a myth. Many sun worshippers believe that getting a tan before a trip to a sun-drenched locale will prevent sunburn. Skin experts say that a base tan is an equivalent of wearing a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of three to four, which means that a person can expose their skin to four times more sun before burning. In comparison, the American Cancer Society recommends using a broad spectrum sunscreen offering SPF 30 or higher to avoid the dangers of tanning. A base tan falls far below that level and therefore offers little or no protection against harmful UV rays and sunburn.
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