The 6 Effects Of Suntanning You Need To Know About
It turns out that there are some health benefits when it comes to the beach bums favourite activity. Here's what you need to know about tanning.

September 30, 2011

So you’re at your favourite beach, just got out of the water, and are about to soak up some summer sun. But then you remember to put on sunscreen lotion so you don’t leave the beach looking extra crispy. Ever wondered what tanning actually does to your body? It turns out that there are a few health benefits when it comes to the beach bums’ favourite activity. Here are the effects of suntanning that you need to know about.

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1. What Happens


As you kick back, the sun’s rays begin to warm your pale torso. “Your body temperature rises, causing your blood vessels to dilate so heat is lost through your skin,” says dermatologist Dr Rona Mackie. Soon, your veins start bulging and you look flushed. “These are superficial blood vessels under your skin. Your heart rate should stay the same and there’ll be no difference to your circulation,” says Mackie. Besides tan lines that is.

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2. Sweat, Sweat, Sweat


After a few minutes, your body moves to stage two of the cool-down process. “The above normal body temperature triggers the eccrine glands to go into action, enabling moisture to evaporate from your skin’s surface,” says Mackie. In other words, you sweat. But your body needs fluid and on a beach, dehydration can occur after about 10 minutes.

“It’s easy to get light-headed and dizzy if you lose a lot of fluid, so drink 250ml of water for every half hour you spend sunbathing,” advises Mackie.

3. Skin Damage 

Oh dear, a human lobster… “UV rays are damaging your skin’s surface cells,” says Mackie. Cover yourself with SPF30+ cream 15 minutes before going outdoors. But it’s not all bad: the UVs also trigger the release of melanin – the chemical that protects your body from absorbing too much solar scorch, and makes your skin go brown. You won’t see it until the inflammation goes down though.

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4. Feeling Bright

Even if your skin’s a bit rosy, you’ll be feeling good by now. And not just because you aren’t in the office. “There are light receptors at the back of your eye, which trigger an endorphin rush in your blood, giving you a feeling of wellbeing,” says Mackie. A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found two weekly 15-minute doses of UV rays was enough to make men feel happier and more relaxed. A cocktail wouldn’t hurt either.

5. D-Day

There’s more good news: “Your skin absorbs sunlight and converts it into vitamin D,” says Dr William Grant of the Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Centre in the US ( The benefits of “D” are huge: it fights prostate and colon cancer, as well as acne and heart disease. “If you have fair skin, 30 minutes in the hot sun will give you half your RDA of vitamin D.

6. Stay Young


After 30 minutes in the sun, get out of it. “When they hit your skin, UV rays actually damage your DNA,” says skin cancer specialist Dr John O’Driscoll. Cell damage accumulates, releasing nasty, cancer-causing free-radicals, lighting the fuse on the melanoma time bomb. Minimise sunbathing from 11am to 3pm and look for any moles that have changed colour or size. If you spot one, head to a dermatologist to get checked out by a pro.

Pro tip: Eating oily fish, fresh fruit and vegetables reduces your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so you won’t burn as quickly.

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