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Question: I’m getting married this summer and want to be tan in my wedding photos and on my honeymoon. Will visiting the tanning salon a few times decrease my chances of getting a sunburn if I get a base tan? Also, aren’t tanning salons safer than laying out in the sun?

Answer: You’d be surprised how often these questions are asked! The short answer is NO and NO! Any type of tan is a sign of skin damage. A tan is the skin’s response to UV damage to the skin’s DNA. The skin darkens to prevent more damage, but your risk of skin cancer is already increased. There is no such thing as a “safe” or “healthy” tan.

Tanning beds deliver concentrated levels of UVA and UVB radiation, both of which cause cell damage that can lead to skin cancer. UVA radiation also penetrates deeper into the skin and causes irreversible skin aging like loss of elasticity, wrinkles and brown spots.

If you want to look tan in your wedding photos, try a sunless tanning cream or lotion. You can still get the glow you want without any of the skin damage.

As far as your honeymoon, take plenty of sunscreen with you. Look for a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum (blocking both UVA and UVB), and water-resistant. Be sure to apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outdoors, and to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours or immediately after getting wet (for example, after getting out of a pool). Forgetting to reapply sunscreen throughout the day is the one step that most people forget during vacation and that leads to sunburns. Sunscreen only maintains its listed SPF for approximately 90 minutes, after which point the SPF starts to decrease and the sunscreen starts to lose its ability to block ultraviolet light. Shade and clothing can also help protect you from UV rays. Wear protective UV-blocking sunglasses, broad-brimmed hats and tightly-woven clothes and seek shade when possible. Getting into the habit of protecting yourself from UV rays is as simple as the steps above and will allow you to enjoy the outdoors without damaging your skin.

This article was originally published on May 18, 2015, and was updated on April 12, 2017.

Alice C. Watson, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist with IHA Dermatology. With over 10 years of experience practicing in the southeastern Michigan area, Dr. Watson has clinical interests in skin cancer screening and prevention, long term care of skin cancer survivors, moles/pigmented lesions, connective tissue disease, autoimmune skin disorders, acne and psoriasis.