Sun Tanning

Positive Effects of Sun Tanning

Sunlight is the most effective and natural source of fat-soluble vitamin D which play an important role in the human body. Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption, bone development, mental health, blood sugar regulation, immune system functioning, and cancer prevention. Also, exposure to the sun helps fight depression, increases libido, balances hormones, regulates mood, increases alertness and sets your internal clock.

How exactly does the human body process ultraviolet light into vitamin D?

The sun rays and your unprotected skin are the keys. UV light exposure stimulates epidermal keratinocytes to convert a cholesterol-like steroid (7-dehydrocholesterol) into provitamin D3. During 48-72 hours after sunlight exposure, the sunlight heat initiates the conversion provitamin D3 into vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol); then the bloodstream delivers vitamin D3 into the liver where the liver adds a hydroxyl group, converting it to the prehormone of vitamin D (calcidiol); finally, the kidneys add another hydroxyl group, transforming it to the hormone D2 (calcitriol) which is the active form of vitamin D.

Negative Effects of Sun Tanning

Too much UV light may cause skin cancer and can be a hindrance for Folic acid's ability to break down, which is needed for normal cell division, fertility, and fetal development. Sun light’s exposure causes most skin problems including the earlier aging (photoaging).

Aging Effect of Sun Exposure

  1. Sunspots and uneven pigmentation
  2. Lines and Wrinkles
  3. Dryness
  4. Sagging skin
  5. Enlarge pores
  6. Red Capillaries

Should we avoid sun tanning?

UV radiation consists of alpha (UVA) and beta (UVB) radiation, which is invisible to the naked eyes. UVA and UVB have different wavelengths: 320 – 400 nm and 290 – 320 nm, respectively. Because longer waves penetrate deeper into the skin, too much UVA causes long-term damage, such as DNA damage, skin aging, and a defective immune response[1]. Both UVA and UVB radiations have burning effects and can initiate eye and skin problems, including cataracts and skin cancer.

Currently, the debates over the sun exposure effects have been more intense than before. Some of the respected health organizations do not see any solid health benefits of sunbathing. Health campaigns scare the public that overexposure to the sun might cause cancer. This is partially true. Melanoma is most prevalent among those who burnt as children and teenagers, and who regularly and extremely overexposure to the sun and regularly have sunburns. Heredity and skin type plays an important role in the risk of this disease as well.

However, the new studies proposed that some sun exposure is essential for health. A recent study in Sweden, conducted by a few University Hospitals, which followed 30,000 women over 20 years, suggested that “mortality level among women who avoided sunlight was about double. …Sun exposure advice which is very restrictive in countries with low solar intensity might, in fact, be harmful to women’s health…. Lack of vitamin D linked to the risk of diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rickets, and even more aggressive forms of skin cancer.”[2]

We need UV light for vitamin D production and for the health benefits related to Vitamin D. Along with sunlight, vitamin D could be obtained from some foods or dietary supplements. However, just a few natural and fortified foods contain vitamin D. For example, 3.5 oz. of fresh farmed salmon gives 100 - 250 IU of vitamin D.

Human skin is designed to make vitamin D from sunlight more effectively than the gastrointestinal tract from food or supplements. According to Dr. Michael Holick, full body sunlight exposure for 10 - 15 minutes will give you 3,000-20,000 IU of vitamin D[3]. The amount of synthesized vitamin depends on skin color and UV light intensity.

Recommendation for exposure time depends on your skin type, your location, season, daytime, and UV radiation level. For example, if your skin is fair and UV Index is less then 4, sunbath 15 - 20 minutes; for darker skin type time can be increased to 40-60 minutes daily or at least twice per week. The skin may only absorb a limited amount of vitamin D at a time. If UV Index is above 6, avoid sunbathing between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. and decrease the sunbathing time.

All extremes are a mistake. Avoiding sunlight may be related to vitamin D deficiency. Overexposure is associated with the skin aging and can lead to skin cancer. Small amounts of UV are essential in the production of vitamin D. Enjoying the sun carefully and taking care of your skin to prevent sunburn will help you to find the right balance.


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1. D. H. González Maglio, M. L. Paz, and J. Leoni. Sunlight Effects on Immune System: Is There Something Else in addition to UV-Induced Immunosuppression? NCBI. 2016.

2. P. G. Lindqvist, E. Epstein... Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality: results from the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort.Journal of Internal Medicine, 2014, 276; 77-86.

3. Michael F. Holick, M.D., Ph.D. Vitamin D Deficiency. The New England Journal of Medicine. July 2007

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