Going on a tropical vacation or taking a cruise? You may think it's smart to schedule some time in a tanning bed or lounging by the pool before your departure to acquire a base tan so you won't get sunburned when you arrive at your destination.
Truth is, a base tan gives some protection, but the real problem is that any change in skin color is the body's natural reaction to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays: It's visible proof that the skin is damaged. Repeated exposure to UV rays increases your risk of premature skin aging and skin cancer.
Sunless tanning products change the color of the skin, but they don't stimulate melanin production or absorb UV rays in the range that cause sunburn or sun damage. These self-tanners contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which gradually stains the dead skin cells in your skin's outer layer. The 'tan' lasts until these cells slough off, and the color will fade faster if you wash vigorously or exfoliate.
"Fake bake" products are available in many different formulations, including lotions, sprays and towelettes, and you may want to experiment with different brands to find one that works best with your skin tone. Some salons offer "airbrush tanning," and the results are usually even and natural-looking. If you choose either sunless option, you'll get the warm color that comes from the sun without the potential for skin damage.