What Causes Suntan and Sunburns?


Our body needs sunlight to manufacture Vitamin D but sometimes its ultraviolet light can be very detrimental. Too much exposure to ultraviolet or UV rays can cause Sun tan as well as Sunburns. Frequent and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays over months and years can cause wrinkles, pigmentation, freckles, blemishes and even skin cancer.

Suntan and its cause–

The reason behind Suntan is Melanin.

Suntan, Sunburn, SPF

What is Melanin?

Melanin is a natural substance produced by the body to create pigment in skin, hair and the iris of our eyes. Additionally, melanin protects the skin from UV rays. People who have dark skin have more melanin than the people with the light skin.

The brown colour in our skin is due by the presence of this pigment- melanin. When our skin is exposed to the sun it begins to produce more melanin to protect itself from the harmful rays. Over a long period of time, the accumulation of this pigment under our skin is known as a tan.

When skin produces more melanin, its color changes-

  • Dark-skinned people usually turn darker brown, or tan, when they go in the sun.
  • Light-skinned people usually turn more red, or burn, when they go in the sun.

What causes Sunburns-

When skin is constantly exposed to too much of sun, the body becomes unable to match the production of melanin in order to counterpart the worst effects of the Sun rays. The UV rays of the Sun damages the skin by burning its top most layer, and this is how we get sunburns.

Melanin- the reasons behind Suntan and Sunburns

We should protect our skin from the UV rays which easily penetrate the outer skin layers and pass into the deeper layers and causes damage to skin cells. People who do not have much melanin and gets sun burns easily should protect themselves by covering up sensitive areas, wearing sun block creams with high SPF factor, limiting their total exposure time, and limiting their sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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