Is it wise to pre-tan your skin before going on a holiday?

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It seems to be the ideal way to ensure that you do not have to wear sunscreen all day long while on holiday: Just hit the tanning bed a few times before you go.

Tanned skin is already prepared for exposure to the sun, so you don’t burn so quickly. You save on suntan lotion, and you also don’t run the risk of being burnt like a lobster after a day of sunbathing. Right?

It sounds too good to be true, and unfortunately, that is indeed the case. Anyone who tans via a sunbed is not any more protected against the sun’s rays than someone who does not tan. That is because the UV radiation from the tanning bed will cause you to tan, but it will not cause your upper skin layer to become thicker. The latter does happen with radiation from the sun. 

How does that work exactly? Sunlight contains UV-A and UV-B radiation. The first provides that beautiful tan coloring, but the B variant is needed to make the top layer of your skin thicker. The radiation from a tanning bed mainly consists of UV-A rays. The result is a tan but your skin stays thin. Moreover, as you get older, this can also lead to an increase in wrinkles, so it’s probably best to just skip the sunbed entirely.

A sunbed is unfortunately not good preparation for a holiday in the sun. Put those bottles of sunscreen into the suitcase and prepare to lotion up!