Tanning: Is it a Fad or being Mad!


With more and more Hollywood celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Kim kardashian sporting a tanned look; tanning has become an intense and widely shared enthusiasm. Flaunting the pumpkin orange skin has become the latest trend. It may give you a glow for a while but the health hazards related with the prolonged sun exposure outweighs its beauty component.

What is tanning?

On exposure to sun the melanin present in skin starts rapidly multiplying to protect the skin from harmful effects of sun radiations. This rapid multiplication of melanin makes the skin a shade or two darker and the glow associated with it is due to increased blood circulation, redness and erythema due to heating effects of infra-red radiations.


Just to commercialise this latest trend UV-booths and lamps have also become a big hit but these are even more harmful than actual sun exposure because they expose you to a broader spectrum of UV- radiations. Ultraviolet radiation can be helpful when used to treat diseases such as psoriasis, but it can also be harmful.

The UVR spectrum is divided into three parts, each having different effects on the skin, although UVC does not penetrate the ozone layer of the atmosphere and is therefore currently irrelevant to skin disease. Virtually all of the UVB is absorbed in the epidermis, whereas some 30% of UVA reaches the dermis. The B wavelengths (UVB: 280–320 nm) cause sunburn and are effectively screened out by window glass. The A spectrum (UVA) is long-wave ultraviolet light, from 320 nm to the most violet colour perceptible to the eye (about 400 nm). It ages and tans the skin. The differences between the wavelengths can be recorded conveniently in the form of action spectra, which show how effective each is at producing different biological effects, such as clearing psoriasis or causing erythema. Since most of the UV- beds and lamps have UV-A rays so associated risks are greater. You may also have an increased risk of cataract.

Presentation and course

Skin exposed to too much UVB smarts and becomes red several hours later. Severe sunburn is painful and may blister. The redness is maximal after 1 day and then settles over the next 2 or 3 days, leaving sheetlike desquamation, diffuse pigmentation (a ‘tan’) and, sometimes, discrete lentigines.

Associated risks

Let us have a look upon the associated hazards related with tanning. As tanning is a natural phenomenon that occurs when sun exposure is greater and melanin is produced in the skin as a protective mechanism to protect the skin from danger. The most immediate effect that you may observe is sunburns. Your skin may lose its natural glow and you may end up having hyperpigmentation, moles and freckles.

It has also been observed that over sun exposure also causes premature ageing and wrinkles. You end up looking older than your real age.

  • It is the leading cause of skin cancers and causes or worsens several skin disorders. UVR is non-ionizing, but changes the skin chemically by reacting with endogenous light-absorbing chemicals (chromophores), which include DNA, RNA, urocanic acid and melanin.
  • Sunburn - UVB penetrates the epidermis and superficial dermis, stimulating the production and release of prostaglandins, leukotrienes, histamine, interleukin 1 (IL-1) and tumour necrosis factor α (TNF-α), which cause pain and redness.
  • Different types of skin react differently to UVR and require different degrees of protection against the sun.
Skin type Features of skin Effects of sun exposure
Type I Pale skin, red hair, freckle Always burns but never tans
Type II Fair skin Usually burns, sometimes tans
Type III Darker skin May burn, usually tans
Type IV Mediterranean Rarely burns, always tans
Type V Latin American, Middle Eastern Moderate constitutional pigmentation
Type VI Blacks Marked constitutional pigmentation


The treatment is symptomatic. Baths may be cooling and oily shake lotions (e.g. oily calamine lotion), oil in-water lotions or creams are comforting. Potent topical corticosteroids help if used early and briefly. Oral aspirin (a prostaglandin synthesis inhibitor) relieves the pain. Sprays containing benzocaine also relieve pain, but occasionally sensitize.


So whenever you go out in the sun protect yourself from sun. Wear a broad brimmed hat, UV- blocking sunglasses and don’t forget to apply a sunscreen with SPF 15 or more at least 20 minutes before going out in the sun and reapply after every two hours. Beauty cannot be determined by colour of skin, hair or eyes. You are most beautiful person on earth when you are yourself. Remember eat healthy, think healthy and stay healthy!


  1. Berneburg, M., Plettenberg, H. and Krutmann, J. (2000) Photoaging of human skin. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology and Photomedicine 16, 239–244.
  2. Epstein, J.H. (1999) Phototoxicity and photoallergy. Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery 18, 274–284.
  3. Clinical dermatology ( Hunter J., Savin J., Dahl M., - 2002- 3rd ed – Blackwell publishing; 16, 233-235

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Dr. Sanjeev Gupta

MD, DNB (Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology) | Professor and Head of the Department (M.M. Institute of Medical Sciences and Research)

Mullana Medical College, Ambala

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