How Many Tanning Sessions To Get A Base Tan?

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Are you getting ready for an epic vacation on the beach? Apart from getting all your swimsuits ready, you might be thinking of getting your skin ready for the hot sun by getting a base tan before you go. 

Many wonder: how many tanning sessions to get a base tan? There isn’t an exact number that answers this question. It will vary from skin tone to skin tone. Lighter-skinned people may not ever fully build a base tan, while darker-skinned people may need very little.

Regardless, we’ll still give you some tips on how you could successfully get a base tan and discuss whether you should really get one or not.

Let’s start by defining what a base tan is and why most people want to get it.

What Is A Base Tan? And Why Do People Want One?

Are you one of those who have pasty white skin that burns easily under the sun? Getting sunburned isn’t only uncomfortable and painful, it is dangerous too! Sunburn puts you at greater risk of skin cancer. 

Aside from applying sunscreen, you can help lessen the risk of getting your skin sunburned by developing a base tan. 

So what is a base tan, exactly?

A base tan is essentially a tan that you develop while using a tanning bed or short sun exposures in preparation for being exposed to the UV from the sun during your vacation.

A base tan provides you with the equivalent of putting on an SPF-3 sunscreen.

That’s SPF-3, not SPF-30! So not much protection at all. But also not zero. An SPF-3 will provide some protection against sun exposure for a short time.

A base tan provides you with the equivalent of putting on an SPF-3 sunscreen.

According to the base tan theory, you can help prevent your skin from being sunburned so easily if you already have a base tan. 

To understand that, we first have to know how your skin reacts when it is exposed to UV radiation. 

The skin is a protective barrier and UV radiation is considered to be harmful to it. That is why your skin reacts when it is exposed to UV radiation.

The initial reaction would involve the melanin that is already present in the skin. Once the UV rays hit the melanin, it oxidizes and turns to a darker color. 

That tan color skin is the body’s way of shielding itself from the potential UV rays that it could still encounter. The more UV rays are encountered, the more the skin is triggered to release more melanin from the melanocytes to add more protection. 

Each person has a limit as to how much melanin they could release on the skin. That is why there is a limit as to how dark one’s skin can get even with constant exposure to UV. 

With the base tan theory, the skin is already prepared to protect itself against UV rays because it was already previously exposed to the UV rays. That is signified by the tan the skin develops. 

When the skin is somewhat ready and protected, you would be less likely to get sunburned. 

As someone who has skin that easily burns when exposed to the sun, it is understandable that you try to find various ways how to prevent that. Even if you don’t have pasty white skin, the promise of being less likely sunburned is very tempting. 

How Many Tanning Sessions To Get A Base Tan?

How fast you develop a base tan will vary from one person to another. A single exposure to tanning beds could already start the reaction of getting a tan.

Most will suggest you start building a base tan gradually three weeks prior to your vacation. That means you should be using the tanning beds for about three sessions for the first week until you develop a tan. 

Most will suggest you start building a base tan gradually three weeks prior to your vacation. 

Afterwhich, you should be maintaining that tan by going to the tanning beds for about two sessions in the succeeding two weeks prior to your vacation. 

With this, you’ll be able to see and maintain tan skin before you even expose your body to the sun during your vacation. 

Does A Base Tan Work?

We can’t deny the skin’s natural protective reaction to exposure to UV radiation. Although there is certain protection against UV radiation to some extent, it isn’t enough.

As mentioned above, with a base tan, it is estimated that you provide your body sun protection at SPF 3 or 4 levels. This simply means that your skin can handle about 4 times more sun exposure before burning as compared to that of not having a base tan. 

Having a natural SPF of 3 is better than nothing, but that really doesn’t offer as much protection if you just use sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 and up. 

You still need to use sunscreen when in prolonged sunlight, even if you have a base tan.

The problem here is that people mistakenly think that they are instantly protected because they have a base tan. That could be more dangerous as they are more likely to choose to expose their skin without using sunscreen or otherwise covering up

Although they are less likely to burn as compared to those without having a base tan, they will still eventually have sunburn if they don’t use sunscreen .

By exposing the skin without protection, they increase their risk of developing more dangerous consequences. 

The protection that you get out of a base tan is minimal and that doesn’t mean that you should skip using your sunscreen. Applying sunscreen and minimizing UV exposure is still the best protection against sunburn. 

As discussed, your skin doesn’t really offer much protection against sunburn even if you have a base tan that you developed from tanning beds. Of course, some people are still getting them because of their cosmetic appeal and the other benefits of tanning

It is understandable that some people feel good when you see your skin beautifully tan even if it is only your first day of spending your beach vacation. 

Having a base tan still has its cosmetic appeal. But remember that using tanning beds to get that base tan also puts you at risk of developing skin problems. You could also try a spray tan, and then just use sunscreen.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).