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Historically, society has thought of tanned skin as a sign of beauty. While having a tan may look good, that doesn’t mean it’s good for your skin. Skin research has shown that tanning increases your risk for skin cancer, and while that knowledge has helped persuade some people to avoid the sun, others still seek out a golden glow.

One persistent misconception about tanning and skin cancer is that getting a “base tan” can help with sun protection. This is not true. A base tan affords almost no protection against future ultraviolet exposure. Studies have shown that a base tan protects you about as much as a sunscreen with an SPF 3 or less. The only effective way to prevent a sunburn and skin damage is to use sunscreen every time you are in the sun. Dermatologists typically recommend SPF 50 when going outdoors for prolonged periods, and that you reapply sunscreen every hour.

Prolonged sun exposure is harmful to the skin, no matter the color of your skin. While those with darker skin may not burn as quickly, anyone can get a sunburn.

While there are positives to getting some sunlight, such as being supplied with Vitamin D and bettering your mood, dermatologists recommend achieving these benefits from alternative sources. Food supplements rich in Vitamin D include egg yolks, fish, cheese and fortified milk. Also, it’s possible to lighten your mood without going in direct sunlight. Opening window blinds and doors helps let sunlight and fresh air in without the direct rays of the sun. When going outdoors, finding shady areas can help reduce the risk of burn.

If you’re still going for that golden tan, there are plenty of products that can provide the desired result without any sun exposure, such as tinted moisturizers or spray tans.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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