Asian woman wearing a hat and sunglasses while sunbathing on the beach

Tanned skin has been a coveted feature since the 20th century. It has been going in and out of fashion since. People still seem to be at odds with its true effects on the skin, claiming that sunbathing has health benefits. While it’s true that moderate sunbathing can help improve mood and bone strength through vitamin D synthesis, it’s not a go-signal to irresponsibly sit by the pool all day. Here are some of the risks of getting tanned skin.


The most noticeable sign of overexposure to the sun is sunburn. Also known as erythema, it’s characterized by red, peeling skin and can be painful. Severe burns can also lead to swelling, fever, nausea, and fatigue.

Sunburn is a sign that have damaged your skin cells, and your body is trying to remove the damaged cells through peeling. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, having five or more sunburns can increase your risk of developing melanoma, which is caused by exposure to UV rays. Sure, tanned skin may look cool, but it’s a sign of cell damage.

Premature Skin Aging

There are three types of ultraviolet rays. UVB rays are shorter in wavelength and are responsible for sunburn and tanning, while UVA rays have long wavelengths and are associated with skin aging. The third, UVC rays, do not penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere. Also known as “photoaging,” skin damage caused by prolonged and accrued sun exposure can result in leathery, wrinkled skin and dark spots.

Applying a of at least SPF 30 can help filter both UVA and UVB rays. However, the risk is still there if you don’t apply consistently and reapply it throughout the day. According to the International Ultraviolet Association, standard window glass may allow UVA rays to pass through. This means you are even when indoors or inside your car.

Compromised Immune System

One lesser-known effect of sunbathing in pursuit of tanned skin is immune suppression. The World Health Organization notes that exposure to ultraviolet radiation, specifically UVB rays, can trigger immune responses in humans. It adds that sun exposure, therefore, can increase the risk of infection and lower the body’s defenses. In addition, high UV levels can decrease the effectiveness of certain vaccines.

Contrary to popular belief, you are at risk even if naturally have “tan” or “morena” skin. The WHO states that while dark-skinned people can tolerate UV exposure without developing sunburn, the risk of immune suppression is still there.

Eye Damage

The eyes aren’t just windows to the soul — they’re also the only organs that allow visible light to penetrate deep into the human body. Just as the skin around it is delicate, the eyes are also quite fragile and sensitive to the sun’s rays. UV reflection from the ground, sand, water, or snow, as well as spending time inside tanning beds, can cause severe eye damage.

You can risk photokeratitis or cornea inflammation and photoconjunctivitis or conjunctiva inflammation. These two are similar to sunburn but are specific to the eye area. You can also develop pterygium and cataracts, which is the leading cause of blindness worldwide, according to WHO.

Skin Cancer

Excessive, unprotected sun exposure can put you at risk of developing skin cancer. Melanoma is cancer that begins in the epidermis, particularly in the cells that produce melanin. The American Cancer Society notes that while it’s a dangerous form of skin cancer, it’s almost always curable when detected early.

Non-melanoma cancer, on the other hand, develops in the basal or squamous cells at the base of the epidermis. They often start in exposed areas of the body, such as the ears, neck, face, lips, and back of the hands. UV radiation can promote these cancers by damaging the DNA in skin cells and weakening the body’s immune system against cancer cells.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using sunscreen with broad-spectrum SPF 15 or higher or SPF 30 or higher for a day outdoors. , you can choose from various formulas and textures, such as sticks, gels, creams, and even powder.

Applying at least a shot-glass worth of sunscreen all over the body 30 minutes before sun exposure can help prevent premature skin aging and decrease the risk of skin cancer by 40 to 50 percent. You’ll also need to reapply every two hours, especially if you sweat or are exposed to water.

Try Vaseline Healthy Bright SPF24 PA++ Sun + Pollution Protection Body Lotion for everyday use. It has broad-spectrum protection and niacinamide to brighten dark spots and petroleum jelly to moisturize dry skin.

For the face, go for POND'S UV Bright Sunscreen, which protects against UVA and UVB rays and prevents sunburn and premature skin aging. A bonus: it’s also formulated with Gluta-boost Technology that has ten times the brightening power of vitamin C, to fade dark spots and give you bright, even skin.

The price to pay for tanned skin is high and a few days of fabulous brownness just isn’t worth it. If you're going out in the sun, make sure to apply sunscreen to stay protected. Meanwhile, if it’s a golden glow you want, there are .