Shouldn't I Burn Before I Tan?

Many indoor tanning clients still believe that they must burn before they tan. The primary reason most tanners believe this is due to the history of outdoor tanning and the uncontrolled elements of the sun. Outdoor tanning and sunburns have somehow always been related and accepted.

A suntan occurs when melanocytes in the epidermis (outer layer of the skin) produce melanin pigment in response to ultraviolet (UV) exposure. Additional levels of UVR then darken melanin. Melanin production takes a bit of time to develop...and that is why people cannot develop a tan in just one day.

A sunburn is a completely different process. A sunburn results when the amount of UV exposure exceeds the body's natural tanning capability, sending an increase in blood flow to the affected skin in an attempt to repair the damage. In extreme cases, or with individuals who are extremely sensitive to UV, sunburn can occur in less than 15 minutes. Unlike a thermal burn, sunburn is not immediately apparent. By the time the skin becomes painful and red, the damage has been done.

Smart Tan's director of technical education, Steve Chaney, describes it best: "You simply can't tan a burn. Once your skin turns red you have effectively slowed down, stalled, or even reversed the tanning process. If you burn first, you will eventually tan, but what you have are the leftovers of a tan that is inferior to the great tan you can get by exposing your skin slowly."

Latitude and altitude, ground reflection, time of day, and clouds and haze greatly influence the challenges of outdoor tanning.

Comment from Tan Plus: A sunburn is not only unhealthy and a possible precursor to some types of skin cancer, but is usually painful and always unattractive. The ultimate goal of the professional tanning salon operator is to help clients achieve a tan, gradually, without burning.

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