Alasche A tan is a sign of damaged -- not healthy -- skin. Why? When your skin is getting too many harmful rays, a tan is the way it tries to protect itself from additional damage. In addition, many people use tanning beds as a way to get a "base tan" before going to the beach or other sunny location, thinking it will prevent them from getting sunburned. In fact, a tan is not able to prevent sunburn anywhere near as well as a good sunscreen will.