Is beach tanning worse than just being outside?

Two girls on the beach.
Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery By taking the right precautions, you can make tanning at the beach less dangerous. See more pictures of getting beautiful skin.
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Overexposure to the sun is dangerous. It doesn't matter if you're at the beach or you're sitting in your convertible during rush hour traffic. However, in most cases, people are more likely going to get a sunburn after a visit to beach than during a short walk. Tanning at the beach tends to be more dangerous than just being outside, but it has less to do with the location than with the choices you make while playing in the sand.

When you take a walk outside, you rarely do it in your bathing suit. Of course, many people choose to wear one at the beach, but this leaves skin exposed to the sun's harmful UV rays. Clothing is our first line of defense against sunlight. When UV rays penetrate our bare skin for long periods of time, we run the risk of developing skin diseases like skin cancer. During your stay at the beach, it's best to cover up for as long as possible with long sleeves or dark colors [source: American Cancer Society]. Sunscreen, of course, also protects us from radiation for a certain amount of time, but taking care of how it's applied is another important factor.


Most people know they're supposed to wear sunscreen at the beach. Unfortunately, not everyone reapplies it often enough to actually protect themselves. One application of sunscreen doesn't last all day, and once it wears off you're in trouble. Additionally, people rarely go to the beach without jumping in the water. The problem is that swimming tends to wash off the sunscreen you're wearing, and if you don't reapply it once you dry off, you're leaving yourself exposed. On a similar note, sweating can have the same effect, especially if you're not using sweat-proof sunscreen [source: Ellis-Christensen]. And if that weren't enough, white sand and water at the beach reflect sunlight back at you, increasing the risk of sun damage even more.

It's important to note, however, that although beach tanning can be dangerous, you should still protect yourself from everyday sun exposure. Most experts recommend using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of at least 15.

For more information on tanning and sun protection, visit the links on the next page.


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Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • American Cancer Society. "How Do I Protect Myself from UV?" June 11, 2008. (Aug. 16, 2009)
  • Ellis-Christensen, Tricia. "What Does SPF Mean?" Wise Geek. (Aug. 16, 2009)