Sunbathing: What you should pay attention to

Sonnenbaden: Worauf du achten solltest

The thought of vacation, beach and sea immediately awakens the longing for the warm sun on your skin. Of course, the perfectly tanned body shouldn't be missing, but it doesn't come by itself either. For this very reason, one of our favorite hobbies during the summer months is to sunbathe and enjoy time in the sun.

So sunbathing is simply part of a beach holiday, but relaxing sunbathing can be dangerous. Therefore, one should always keep the health of the skin in mind. To ensure that your skin is damaged as little as possible, we have summarized the most important tips for healthy sunbathing.

the essentials in brief

  • Sunbathing has many benefits that make bathing in the sun all the more enjoyable. Sunlight, for example, stimulates the production of vitamin D in the body.
  • It is important, however, that too much UV radiation can also cause lasting damage to the skin. Pigment spots, wrinkles or, in the worst case, skin cancer can develop over a long period of time.
  • The skin should therefore always be creamed before sunbathing to protect it. Sunscreen with a high sun protection factor should be used for this.

Background: What you should know about sunbathing

However, sunbathing is not as simple as it first appears and there are a few things to consider before you can lie in the sun without worrying. Here you can find out everything you need to know.

What is sunbathing?

Sunbathing is consciously lying in the sun, usually with the intention of getting a tan. In this way, an attempt is made, especially in the warm season, to correspond to the common beauty ideal of tanned skin.

Furthermore, sunbathing is very suitable for warming up in the sun, for relaxing or to fill up on vitamin D. Since many find lying in the sun to be very relaxing, it is also a very popular activity on vacation by the sea.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of sunbathing

Why is it worth sunbathing more often in summer and what are the dangers of excessive sunbathing? We have summarized the most important arguments for and against bathing in the sun.


One of the main benefits of direct sunlight is, of course, that it stimulates the production of vitamin D. This hormone takes on many important tasks in the body and should therefore always be sufficiently available (1).

In addition, there is already research that has found a connection between high vitamin D levels and a low BMI. This means that not only could you achieve a tanned skin tone by sunbathing, but you could also achieve your perfect beach body and maybe even lose a bit of weight (2).

Palm tree

By soaking in the sun, your body produces the important vitamin D. (Image source: Jared Rice / Unsplash)

Furthermore, regular exposure to the sun has a preventive effect on various diseases such as diseases of the cardiovascular system. In addition, the sun also makes you feel better because the production of melatonin is suppressed and therefore the serotonin can make you feel good, which makes you more alert even without caffeine (3).


Nevertheless, the disadvantages of sunlight should not be underestimated. This can cause sunburns, which can even cause the skin to blister. These sunburns are not only painful at the time of the acute inflammation of the skin, but can also lead to melanoma over years or decades.

However, not only sunburn can lead to skin cancer. Too much UV radiation, especially UVB radiation, can also lead to this over a long period of time. This is problematic in that your skin never forgets, no matter how much time passes. Thus, melanomas can still form decades later. Excessive sunbathing can also have visual consequences such as increased wrinkles or pigment spots (4,5,6).

How much sunbathing is healthy?

It is important that, despite all the advantages, sunlight is only enjoyed in moderation and that the sun's rays on the skin are dosed in such a way that it is still well tolerated by the individual skin type and only as little damage as possible can be caused. In fact, for the production of vitamin D, or more precisely vitamin D3, 15 minutes of sun exposure a day on the arms and face is enough.

Sunbathing should last a maximum of 5 to 25 minutes.

This means that long and excessive sunbathing is not necessary for the body. It is therefore advisable to keep sunbathing short. Depending on your skin type, the time in the sun should be between 5 and a maximum of 25 minutes. Especially in spring, but also in autumn, when the sun's rays are no longer so strong, sunbathing can be longer.

You should also be particularly careful when you go back into the shade after sunbathing. On the one hand, the heat radiation is shielded there, but on the other hand, the UV radiation can also reach shady areas. Without the thermal radiation, however, possible damage to the skin can quickly be overlooked.

When to sunbathe

Especially in midsummer, the sun's rays are very intense at midday, which is why sunbathing at midday should be avoided. After all, the danger is very high that you will get a sunburn right then and thus damage the skin in the worst case.

So if you want to tan with as little risk of sunburn as possible, it is advisable to go out in the sun in the morning until 10 a.m. or in the early evening.

However, it makes sense if these times are not exhausted to protect your own skin, especially in the summer months. Because especially in July or August, or in areas near the equator, the sun can be very intense earlier.

Why should you only sunbathe with sunscreen?

Since the skin's own protection often only lasts for a very short time, it is always recommended that sun protection is also used. It extends the healthy time spent in the sun and therefore allows a much longer sunbath than without any protection at all (7).

Woman applies cream

Applying sunscreen should never be forgotten before sunbathing. (Image source: / Pexels)

The common belief that sunscreen prevents skin from tanning is also untrue. Although the desired tan does not develop at the same speed, sun protection protects the skin.

In addition, the brown tone lasts a little longer afterwards because the skin no longer dries out as quickly. Using sunscreen also reduces the risk of skin becoming itchy and irritated after sunbathing.

What sunscreen to use for sunbathing?

There are many different types of sunscreen available commercially. We have listed the most common types below:

  • Sunscreen: It is very popular because it is very suitable for most skin types. It's not too oily, but still has enough moisture for the skin.
  • Sunscreen: The sunscreen is particularly suitable for the face and very dry skin types. The fat content in the cream provides the skin with a lot of moisture.
  • Lotions: Lotions with sun protection factor are particularly suitable for the entire body because they can be easily applied.
  • Oils: Many use natural oils as sunscreen. However, it should be noted that they do not offer complete protection against UV rays and are therefore not an ideal alternative to classic sun protection. Nevertheless, they can be used in addition to sunscreen.

However, not only the type of sun protection is important, but also the sun protection factor. Which SPF is the right one for sunbathing depends on your skin type and the intensity of the sun's rays. The lighter the skin and the more intense the sun is during sunbathing, the higher the sun protection factor must be.

How much sunscreen is enough?

Don't skimp on sunscreen like sunscreen or sunscreen. Otherwise it may happen that you do not achieve the sun protection factor that is written on the cream.

You should use about three tablespoons of sunscreen to apply sunscreen.

Therefore, it is always better to be a little more generous than to be a little more economical. In itself, you can use the tablespoon method as a guide. This method says that about three tablespoons of sunscreen is enough for an adult human.

Unfortunately, applying lotion in one go is not the end of it. It is often forgotten that you have to keep applying cream to maintain the protection. So if you sunbathe several times a day or if you go into the water in the meantime, you should always reapply a layer of sunscreen (8,9).

What should you watch out for if you want your skin to tan when sunbathing?

If you want the perfect holiday tan that ideally lasts a long time, you have to prepare well. It is important that you do not get a bad sunburn right at the beginning of your holiday, because then it will be difficult to achieve a subtle tan.

So try to prepare your skin for sunbathing and for the first few days only go out in the sun for a short time and apply a sunscreen with a high SPF.

You can also implement the tip with the high sun protection factor later, as the skin is not overly stressed due to the good protection and therefore stays tan longer. If you want the color of your skin to be even, it is also advisable to exfoliate before sunbathing to remove dead skin cells and impurities.

If you want to tan in a healthy way, you can also help with nutrition. If you eat a lot of foods that contain a larger amount of beta-carotene , it will also make it easier for you to tan your skin. It can also protect the skin from the UV rays of the sun to a certain extent.

How can you sunbathe with fair skin?

In particular, people with light skin get sunburnt quickly and therefore have to be more careful. This is because the self-protection period is much shorter than in people with darker skin. If you want to know what skin type you have, you can refer to the table below:

skin type self-protection Necessary sun protection factor
Skin Type 1: light blonde or red hair and very light, pale skin, often with freckles 10 minutes max SPF 40-50
Skin type 2: blond hair and lighter skin 10-20 minutes max SPF 30-40
Skin type 3: brown hair and light brown skin 20-30 minutes max SPF 20-30
Skin type 4: dark brown or black hair and dark skin 30-45 minutes max SPF 10-20

So if you have a lighter skin type, you shouldn't be in the sun for too long, as in such a case the skin tends to turn red rather than tan. Therefore, it always makes sense to be a bit more careful here. However, if you don't want to completely forego a summer tan, you should lie down in the shade.

After all, the UV radiation from the sun is also present in the shade. However, it is somewhat weaker there and does not endanger fair skin as much (10).

Which diseases and special conditions shouldn't be sunbathed?

Too much sun exposure can be problematic for some diseases. For example, sunbathing puts a strain on the circulatory system and can therefore be tricky even when you have a cold. In addition, one should also pay attention to which medications are taken, as some make the skin far more sensitive to sunlight.

This is the case with antibiotics, for example, so great caution is required when taking them. Likewise, skin should not be exposed to direct sunlight after getting a tattoo (11).

Sunbathing for too long is also not advisable if you are pregnant. The skin on the stomach is stretched and therefore not well protected from the intense radiation of the sun.

If the pregnant woman's body is heated too much, this can also result in severe circulatory problems. Therefore, especially during pregnancy, you should make sure that you don't stay in the sun for too long.


The most important thing is and remains adequate protection with the help of sun milk and sun cream. However, this protection should always be maintained by reapplying cream. Still, it's at least as important that you get out of the sun and into the shade regularly. You do all this for the sake of your skin and therefore your health, because the skin never forgets.

If you follow these most important rules, the popular sunbathing should no longer be a problem. Then you can enjoy your time in the sun all the more, come back from your well-deserved holiday well tanned and you can look forward to compliments on your great tan.


  1. Friedrich, A. (2020). Vitamin D - sense and nonsense. In Multiple Sclerosis Guide (pp. 185-193). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. Source
  2. Wamberg L, Christiansen T, Paulsen SK, Fisker S, Rask P, Rejnmark L, ... & Pedersen SB (2013). Expression of vitamin D-metabolizing enzymes in human adipose tissue—the effect of obesity and diet-induced weight loss. International journal of obesity, 37(5), 651-657. Source
  3. Pilz, S., Tomaschitz, A., März, W., Drechsler, C., Ritz, E., Zittermann, A., ... & Dekker, JM (2011). Vitamin D, cardiovascular disease and mortality. Clinical Endocrinology, 75(5), 575-584.Source
  4. Schmitz, S., Garbe, C., Tebbe, B., & Orfanos, CE (1994). Long-wave ultraviolet radiation (UVA) and skin cancer. The Dermatologist, 45(8), 517-525. Source
  5. Diepgen TL, Drexler H, Elsner P, & Schmitt J (2015). UV light-induced skin cancer as a new occupational disease. The Dermatologist, 66(3), 154-159. Source
  6. De Gruijl, FR (1999). Skin cancer and solar UV radiation. European Journal of Cancer, 35(14), 2003-2009. Source
  7. Mang, R., & Krutmann, J. (2003). Sun protection on vacation. The Dermatologist, 54(6), 498-505. Source
  8. Petersen, B., & Wulf, HC (2014). Application of sunscreen--theory and reality. Photodermatology, photoimmunology & photomedicine, 30(2-3), 96-101. Source
  9. Diffey, BL (2001). When should sunscreen be reapplied?. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 45(6), 882-885. Source
  10. Stege, H., & Mang, R. (2013). Effective sun protection for every skin type. CME, 10(5), 7-15. Source
  11. Serup J, Carlsen KH & Sepehri M (2015). Tattoo complaints and complications: diagnosis and clinical spectrum. Current problems in dermatology, 48, 48-60. Source
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