Harvard Health Smashes this Suntan Myth

2024-01-01 00:00:00 / episode: 350


Harvard Health Smashes this Suntan Myth

When I was growing up my mom always said go out and get in the Sun a little bit each day

and build up a base tan.

the belief was that if you have a base tan, it can help protect you from the Sun.

after you get the base tan your tan just gets darker and darker and darker.

hi and welcome to the Les Perras podcast episode 350 about the Sun Tanning myth.

The Myth

So the myth is if you get a base 10 you're going to be protected.

the idea is to go out get a tan

and then after you have that 10 it's more and more difficult to get a sunburn.

this is a myth.

it's an easy to believe myth Because when you get a tan you're building up melanin in your skin.

Melanin can absorb UV.

this UV is what gives you a sunburn from the sun's rays.

so if you have lots of melanin

you should be able to absorb lots of UV which means you don't get a sunburn.

Tanning Salons

the tanning salons love this one.

there was a time when they sold this idea as a reason to go to tanning salon.

the idea was that you go to the tanning salon

and safely get a base tan

then when you go to the beach you're protected and you're safe against sunburns


in my twenties I went to Africa and lived there for a while

one of the interesting things I learned was that the black African people got sunburns. this was a surprise to me

because I believed the tanning myth.

I thought black African people had more melanin so they had lots of protection from the Sun and they would never get sunburns.

this is simply not true, and I found out from my friends in Africa when they told me about having sunburn

Be Careful!!

so you have to really be careful if you have a suntan, or dark skin.

you might believe you're protected from the sun when in fact you're not.

it is just as important for people with dark skin to put on sunscreen and sunblock as it is for people with light skin.

The Harvard conclusion

the page that I read on the Harvard website talked about how the melanin in your skin can give some protection.

they made it very clear that this protection is almost zero.

these days a lot of doctors suggest you wear sunblock with a rating of 50 on it.

the Harvard page said if you have a good suntan it's equivalent to sunblock with a rating of three or four.

that means you have almost no protection from the Sun and you could get a sunburn

okay good

so this is good for us now because we know that the melanin in our skin is not very useful for protecting us from the UV rays.

this means we have to protect ourselves. you can use sunblock,

or you can wear clothing to block the Sun.

either of those two simple measures can protect you nicely from the Sun

so you can spend more time outside having fun.

one thing to keep in mind however is that

even on cloudy days it is possible to get a sunburn

because the clouds depending on how cloudy and what kind of clouds they are,

can let UV rays through

so you might feel safe when

in fact you're still exposed to UV radiation from the sun

which can cause a sunburn.

go outside


and play safe

thanks for listening.