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Experts weigh in on tanning before vacation

GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY, Mi (WPBN/WGTU) -- During the winter in northern Michigan, the sun barely shines, so the only way to get a tan is inside a tanning salon.

At Desert Sun Tanning in Traverse City, more and more customers have been coming in to prepare for their spring break trip.

"They come in here like 'ok, I'm leaving here tomorrow for my warm, sunny destination and I need some color," said manager Lisa Kelderhouse. "It doesn't happen that way, you gotta build a base.”

Many people come in over a longer period of time to build up what's called a base tan, to not only look good on the beach but also build up a tolerance to harsh sunlight.

“Come in as many days in a row as you can," said Kelderhouse. "At least three or four days to build that base tan.”

“People think that getting a base tan is helpful to protect them from sunburn when they're out in the sun," said Dr. Laurel Leithauser at Associates in Dermatology of Traverse City. "That really is a myth.”

Dr. Leithauser is a Mohs Surgeon who works with skin cancer patients and says that while a base tan does build up a slight tolerance to sunlight, the impact is small.

“A tan only provides about an SPF of 1.5, which if you know a little bit about SPF that really is essentially nothing.”

However, if the goal is simply to look tan, Leithouser says there's a safer option out there... spray tanning.

“I actually recommend that to patients all the time," said Leithauser. "If they really don't feel comfortable wearing a swimsuit or for whatever reason want to have the appearance of being tan, a spray tan is very safe, it's definitely much much safer that actual tanning from the sun.”

If you're going to be in the sun this spring break, Dr. Leithauser has some tips to keep your skin healthy.

-When going to the beach, take breaks from the sunlight, bring an umbrella, wear a long brim hat, mix some shade in with the sun.

-When it comes to sunscreen, go for at least an SPF of 50, and reapply every two hours and after a swim.

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