“Woooow, you got tanned!” – a sentence that we like to hear after our summer vacation. No wonder, because tanned skin is suggested with health, well-being and relaxation and is – at least in Western culture – an ideal of beauty. And although everyone knows that too much sun poses significant health risks and is anything but good for the skin.

We asked ourselves: is it even possible to get a healthy tan? With the support of skin care experts Dr. Susanne Presto from the skin care manufacturer Eucerin and Dr. Jetske Ultee , medical doctor & research doctor in cosmetic dermatology, here comes the answer.

Is the sun really that bad for your skin?

In fact, sunlight triggers a whole series of pleasant processes in our body: breathing, blood flow, metabolism, immune system and glandular activity are activated and stimulated, blood pressure and cholesterol levels are lowered. The mood is rising and even the sex life should benefit from the sun. The superstar among the positive sun effects is certainly the formation of the notorious vitamin D, which strengthens bones and has an influence on muscle strength. By the way: These 7 foods are rich in vitamin D.

But bathing in the sun is a double-edged sword and – in addition to the advantages mentioned – also has numerous harmful effects on the skin. “Trying to get tan is often tantamount to damaging our skin,” warns Dr. Presto. A directly visible consequence of everyday life: the sunburn. “Damage that only manifests itself later is wrinkles, pigment spots and in some cases even skin cancer,” adds Dr. Jetske Ultee on. “It should always be borne in mind that damage also occurs when the sun is not shining. UVA radiation penetrates partly through clouds and also through glass.”

Why are we actually getting tanned?

Dr. Presto: “In the basement membrane, between the two uppermost layers of skin, the pigment melanin is formed when exposed to sunlight, which then covers the cell nucleus. The more cells are supplied with melanin, the more clearly the skin tan becomes visible.” Basically, a distinction can be made between two tanning mechanisms:

  • By changing the pigments that are already present, UVA light ensures a relatively quick tan. This is what is known as direct pigmentation, but it only lasts a few hours.
  • Due to the increase and faster distribution of the pigment in the epidermis, UVB radiation ensures a delayed, long-lasting tan.

Of course, nature did not have optics in mind in this process: “The pigment literally acts as a physical barrier, a kind of wall that does not allow the ultraviolet radiation to pass through,” explains Dr. Ultee. A tan is nothing more than the skin’s natural sun protection. Dr. Presto warns: “Very light skin types – also known as skin types I and II – practically do not have this ability. The attempt to tan the skin in these cases usually ends with sunburn.”

How can I get a healthy tan?

“There is actually no such thing as a healthy tan,” says Dr. Presto. Because sunbathing is never really good for the skin. Still, just keep the following tips in mind when sunbathing:

1. Give your skin time

If you take it slow, you reduce the risk of sunburn. “Even people with a darker skin type should only get their skin used to the sun slowly and allow it enough time for pigment formation,” says Dr. Presto. “Otherwise the skin does not have enough time to develop the pigmentation and is exposed to solar radiation without protection.”

2. ALWAYS use sun protection

No secret, but the most important rule when sunbathing: apply lotion carefully! “At the beginning of the sunny season, the skin should be protected with a high sun protection factor (SPF 50/50 +). During the summer, a product with a sun protection factor of 30

3. You are what you eat

“Certain types of fruit and vegetables can actually give the skin a golden brown glow. These include carrots, apricots, melons, peppers, pumpkin, spinach or broccoli,” reveals Dr. Ultee. The magic ingredient: carotenoids. These are antioxidants that accumulate in the skin, affect its color and also protect it from free radicals. “Studies show that people with carotenoid pigmentation are even perceived as more attractive and healthier than sun-tanned people. That’s what I call a healthy tan,” says the expert.


4. Tube tan is the healthiest

You can tan completely harmlessly with self-tanner. The latest generation of products are no longer as easily blotchy and orange as they used to be. Our editorial favorite is this cream from Bondi Sands (from 17.90 €) . We have put together even more self-tanners with totally natural results for you here.

Conclusion: With enough time, sunscreen, the right diet and a good self-tanner, you don’t have to go without your summer tan despite the risks!