Pack the sunblock lotion.

A "base tan" won't protect from sunburn, so stick to the SPF.
Credit: Pietro Izzo/Getty Images

Step away from the tanning bed.

After a long winter spent indoors — watching Netflix and getting very little sun — skin can feel dry and pasty.

For this reason, some people rationalize going to a tanning salon for a “base coat” tan before hitting the beach, thinking it will protect them from sunburn. But that thinking is wrong.

According to a study published in the journal Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, people who tan before getting out in the sun are more likely to get sunburned than those who don’t.

Researchers in the study surveyed 163 university students who went on sunny vacations. The ones who tanned indoors before leaving were, the researchers found, more likely to return home sunburnt, according to Women’s Health. Twelve percent of students surveyed specifically noted that they tanned indoors beforehand in order to avoid a sunburn.

“Many people think that a base tan will protect them from both sunburns and skin cancer,” said study co-author John Lowe, MPH, PhD, head of the School of Health and Sports Sciences at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia.

The problem with this logic is that the changing skin color when you tan, whether in a sunbed or on the beach, is actually a sign that UVB rays are damaging DNA cells. DNA cell damage can cause mutations, which, in the end, can cause skin cancer.

On the flipside, the skin color change also indicates your skin has produced some melanin, which does offer some sun protection. However, that protection is about as strong as an SPF 4, which is pretty useless.

Instead, just use some good, strong sunscreen. SPF is your new best friend.