How dangerous it is to repeatedly tan your skin

In check: nine myths about sunbathing

Myth 1: Tanned skin is healthy

A tanned complexion is considered vital and particularly attractive. Extensive sunbathing is therefore very popular, as is a tan from the solarium. In fact, tanning is a defense reaction of the skin to keep out harmful UV rays. Every tan - whether natural or artificial - indicates that the skin has been injured. So there is no such thing as a healthy tan.

Myth 2: Applying lotion twice is twice as good

A dangerous mistake, because the protection of sunscreen cannot be doubled. If the skin turns red without sunscreen after five minutes in the sun, for example, a sun protection factor (SPF) 20 extends the protection time by around 20 times, i.e. to 100 minutes. After that, the level of UV rays that the skin can tolerate is full. Experts also recommend going into the shade after two thirds of the calculated solar time at the latest. If you have been swimming or have sweated a lot, you should of course always reapply.

Myth 3: You tan faster after a little sunburn

Another risky misconception, because sunburn does not prepare for tanning, but is a burn injury that damages the skin. Every sunburn increases the risk of skin cancer. In addition: If the burned skin peels, white skin appears under the dead skin.

Myth 4: Tanned skin is better protected from sunburn

If you have a medium skin type, your own sun protection factor can be increased by a maximum of 3 to 4 times through tanned skin. But would you use a SPF 3 sunscreen? Regardless of your skin type, a sunscreen is therefore always useful. And not just on vacation: In our part of the world, experts advise you to always apply lotion from March to October.

Myth 5: Good sunscreen is expensive

Stiftung Warentest regularly tests sun creams, sun lotions, sprays and lotions from pharmacies, supermarkets, drug stores and discounters. The results show that the quality of the sunscreen does not depend on the price. Cheap products from the discounter are often test winners.

Myth 6: Tattooed skin needs special protection

A fresh tattoo should always be protected from the sun, as the natural UV protection is damaged shortly after the sting. But older tattoos can also be sensitive to UV radiation and need reliable protection. However, special products for tattooed skin are not necessary. Commercially available products with a high sun protection factor are sufficient. In addition, extensive sunbathing is generally considered a tattoo killer, as UV rays break down the color pigments and the tattoo fades prematurely. During the breakdown, carcinogenic substances can also be released, which can penetrate the entire body via the lymphatic system.

Myth 7: I don't need sunscreen in the shade

Where there is sunlight, there are also UV rays. For example, around 50 percent of the sun's rays still reach the sunshade. Particular caution is required on the beach: sand and water reflect the light and even increase the UV exposure. And you can get sunburn even in the shade of a tree.

Myth 8: Coconut oil replaces sunscreen

Coconut oil is often advertised as a light and natural sunscreen. Indeed, scientists have found out that coconut oil has a so-called photoprotective effect with a sun protection factor of around 7. However, this factor is too small to effectively protect the skin from UV rays. Coconut oil can therefore not be called a sunscreen.

Myth 9: Sunscreen is the best protection against skin cancer

Experts warn: After putting on lotion, many people feel like they are not safe and carelessly overdo sunbathing. Sun cream itself can become a risk factor, especially if it is applied too sparingly. As a guideline, at least 30 milliliters of sunscreen apply to the entire body.

In addition, sunscreen protects against ultraviolet radiation (UV-A and UV-B). For some time now, however, the sun's infrared radiation has also been suspected of damaging cells in the deeper layers of the skin and accelerating skin aging. Sunscreens therefore make an important contribution to preventing sunburn, premature skin aging and skin cancer. In general, it is not only sunburn that increases the risk of developing skin cancer, but also any UV exposure.

Good to remember: the sun protection ABC

If you don't want to do without sunbathing, you should orient yourself to the easy-to-remember sun protection ABC:

  • A for evasive
  • B for dressing
  • C for creams

Or you can do it like the sun-plagued Australians: slip, slop, slap, seek, slide! In German: Slip on a shirt, cream yourself, put on a hat, look for shade and wear sunglasses!