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There are two layers to skin: the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis is the outer layer of skin, the one you can touch and that touches everything. The dermis is the inner layer of skin below the epidermis. The difference between them is the epidermis consists of dead cells and the dermis has live cells. The dermis contains melanocytes, which are responsible for producing melanin, the pigmentation that gives your skin its color.
So when you sit in the sun or in a tanning bed, your skin reacts to the sunrays. In order to protect itself, it produces more melanin. If too much sunlight reaches the skin, it burns. You need to protect your skin and prevent burns. It is also healthy to get enough sun for a nice tan. To get a better balance, tanning beds may be helpful in controlling how much UV light you get.