Sun Tanning


Naturally, everyone desires to look tan because it makes us feel better about ourselves and our appearance. We look healthier, skinnier, and overall just less pale. Besides the obviousness of race making a person darker or lighter, why is it that some people are just so much tanner than others?

After researching this topic I came across a website providing information about sun exposure to the skin. Some people have skin that simply does not tan and just burns when exposed to the sun, some have skin that takes three hours to tan to get to the same level of someone that might just sit in the sun for twenty minutes. The color we get on our skin when it is in the sunlight whether it be a golden brown or just straight red is caused by different types of UV light that has made it past the ozone layer to our skin. Every person has melanin in their bodies, which is produced by our cells and it absorbs all UV light and transform it to heat in our bodies. This protects us from having damage to our cells. So how does the tan vary from person to person? Each body has a different amount of melanin, usually naturally darker skinned people have more melanin allowing them to be protected from the UV rays from the sun compared to paler people who have much less melanin creating them to burn with the small amount of protection. Pale people tend to burn with the lack of protection from their cells so when the UV rays hit your skin it confuses the DNA making it go through a process called apoptosis in which the cells die and in reaction to that blood goes to that area, making the skin turn red and burnt. When the skin is burnt badly, blisters can form in its way to protect the skin with an extra layer. If a tan forms after a burn (which can most likely occur) it is because the lower layers of the skin begin to make more melanin in response to to light on the skin.

There can be some confounding variables with the bodies process of tanning such as sun block and tanning oil being used. Sun block has specific ingredients in it like zinc oxide and titanium oxide that reflects the UV light from the sun blocking it from getting to our cells. Tanning oil on the other hand, depending on the brand produces the opposite effect for the skin. The point of applying tanning oil is to produce extra melanin in our skin, which is the main ingredient in most of these oils. There are also tanning oils with SPF ( sun protection factor) in it, which is beneficial if you are trying to get tan but not burnt. The higher the SPF in sun block and tanning oils is the more protection the cells in our bodies get from the UV light rays in the sun. Overtime, your body can technically build up melatonin from small doses of sunlight triggering the cells.



6 thoughts on “Sun Tanning

  1. tmv5147

    Really great post. My sister will always tan darker and faster than I will, she does have a slightly darker skin tone naturally but it still caught my attention and had me thinking of a few things. If melanin protects of cells from damage than why does everyone always freak out about tanning. Obviously sunscreen screen is always a good option but I looked at weather tanning was healthy. I wasn’t surprised to see them say it was healthy but it needed to be controlled to a point. Obviously dermatologist advise you to use sunscreen in the summer because getting burnt at a continuous rate is dangerous, tanning only provides a small layer of protection. That lead me to my next question, how different are the layers in people and do certain sexes have thicker layers and more melanin. I was unable to find anything correlated to that, but I found a comment by someone that mentioned how the more melanin you have the smarter you are.

  2. Cassandra N Kearns

    This was a very informative blog! Although, I wish that your blog contained more questions with scientific answers found through study and data analysis. A good question you could have incorporated would have been, “does tanning cause skin cancer?” This topic would have brought about a lot of information regarding studies and medical trials that were completed. Here is some information about a study that was conducted based on skin cancer and tanning: .

  3. Matthew Porr

    I find it very interesting that people are so consumed by how much melanin people contain. People who possessed more in the passed were not treated as equal and now it is desirable to have more melanin so that they can be tan. Isn’t it ironic that a adaptation that was supposed to protect us ended up hurting some. A simple adaptation has caused so many beauty standards and such a huge fuss.

  4. Kaitlyn A Kaminski

    Hi Justine,

    I always found it interesting how my twin would tan faster than me while I’d burn more quickly than any of my family members. Great article and for providing me with an answer. I think the melanin in our bodies was clearly due to genetics, and I don’t think people can change their level of it regardless of what people say you can do to increase their levels. I think people need to be careful with tanning because of the health hazards that could happen; Yes, looking tan is nice, but sun spots/cancer is not pretty. People need to be more careful with their choices in the summer and with tanning beds year round- also with airbrush because of the chemicals. Here’s an article on how melanin protects the body from UV Rays

  5. Anna Strahle

    Interesting topic! I have always been the person who can tan really easily, although it probably helps that I rarely ever put on sunscreen. My cousin just entered medical school, and she is interested in pursuing the field of dermatology. Whenever I go out in the sun she always yells at me for never wearing sunscreen because I don’t even realize how much my skin is being damaged. If you’re like me and hate to wear sunscreen but want to protect your skin, here is a tip! There are certain foods that are able to make your skin react better with the sun. Some of those foods are watermelon, fish, tomatoes, berries, leafy greens, and almonds. Most of these foods are rich in antioxidants which are excellent for your body. To read more about the benefits visit this website:

  6. Emma G Schadler

    Hi Justine!
    Rather than why some people tan easier than others, I personally am more curious about why people want to tan in the first place (I tend to enjoy the more opinionated than technical points of arguments for some reason). I burn very easily when I tan, even when I put on large amounts of sunblock, and the burn lasts for so long afterward that I wonder whether the effort to get tan is worth the potential repercussions. Obviously people get sunburned all the time, and I’m not special because my burn lasted a long time; however I also know someone close to me that would lounge in the pool for hours, worked outside often, and just plain enjoyed being in the sun, and was then diagnosed with melanoma. Luckily they were able to remove the cancer, but they are now unable to be out in the sun half as much as they would like.
    Skin cancer, sun burn, and rashes are all harmful effects that can be brought on by overexposure to UV rays. I suppose this is where people weigh how they believe the exposure and hazard can affect their lives, and whether they’re willing to risk their health for tan skin. After my own experiences, I find that I don’t mind being pale if it means I won’t be exposing myself to skin cancer or just being plain uncomfortable for a few days.
    Sorry this was kind of off topic from your post, it just got me thinking. Thanks for the read!

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