The harmful effects of sunbathing

In the summer months, it is not uncommon for many of us to strip down to our under clothing and expose our bodies to the warmth of the sunlight.

Sunbathing is regarded as one of the pleasures in life in summer.

While it can bring with it the all important tan, sunbathing can have certain side-effects on individuals as well.

In this article, we shall briefly review the harmful effects of sunbathing.

Harmful effects

Sunbathing involves exposure of the skin to heat emitted by the sun. Exposure of the skin to this heat for prolonged periods of time can result in excessive sweating and loss of water from within the skin.

Sweating and loss of water from organism

This can cause a great deal of dehydration which over time can result in damage to the skin. If during sunbathing, an individual does not maintain a good hydration, there is always a possibility that their blood pressure would drop significantly enough to cause them to collapse. This is known as heat stroke.

Always drink enough water! If sunbathing, an amount of water you need per day is even higher.


Constant exposure to sunlight can also increase the temperature of the skin resulting in what is commonly called as ‘sunburn’. The damage to the skin depends upon the type of skin the individual has. Some people are more prone to developing sunburns while some tend not to develop it but only have a tan following exposure to sunlight.

The melanin that is present within the skin protects it from the harmful ultraviolet rays that are emitted from the sun. In patients who are light-skinned, this melanin is low in quantity and prolonged exposure can therefore mean excessive exposure of the skin to ultraviolet rays.

Skin cancer

Cancer of the skin is yet another risk that is associated with prolonged periods of sunbathing. As previously mentioned, the ultraviolet rays in sunlight can damage the skin especially in light-skinned individuals.

The damage of the skin cells requires them to heal adequately after the exposure has concluded.

However, when prolonged exposure occurs, the skin cells can change their morphology and overtime they could become cancerous. In a nutshell, constant sunbathing without adequate protection can cause skin cancer.

Premature ageing

Finally, prolonged exposure to sunlight has been known to cause premature ageing of the skin. Use sunbathing cream and avoid sunbathing when Sun is at vertical most position (usually between 11 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon).

Protecting the skin

The best way to protect the skin during sunbathing is to wear creams that have a high sun protection factor (SPF). SPFs are designed to prevent damage of the skin by both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays.

It is recommended that using a cream that has a sun protection factor of at least 15 be used when sunbathing. Application must be generous and must be done at least half an hour prior to sunbathing.

If an individual wishes to have a long sunbathing session, it is important to top up the application from time to time as its effect can wear off fairly quickly.


Sunbathing for long hours has been associated with premature ageing of the skin, skin burns and skin cancer. Using adequate protection is essential to prevent these from occurring.


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