The effect of the sun on body skin

The effect of the sun on body skin

In everyday life, the body is protected from the sun by clothing. Sun protection only becomes an issue when we spend a long period of time outdoors, barely clothed, on holiday or in our leisure time. The skin on the body should always be protected when UV rays affect it, whether in the sunshine or when short-sleeved tops, shorts or skirts are worn.

Signs of UV damage to the body skin

Body skin differs from facial skin in several points:
  • As the skin on the body is not directly exposed to the environment, cell metabolism is slower than on the face. Due to the reduced desquamation, the skin is usually thicker here and also tends to cornification.
  • In the upper layer of the facial skin, the cells are smaller than in other parts of the body. Smaller cells lead to a higher loss of moisture on the face, as the barrier is thinner than on the body.
  • The epidermis on the face is about 0.12 mm thick, on the body on average about 0.60 mm. The thicker skin can lead to the accumulation of more dead skin cells and thus provide a breeding ground for bacteria.

For facial and body skin, sun protection must meet different requirements. Sunscreen products for the face are designed to meet the special needs of thinner skin that is exposed to the sun more often. They can also be tinted to make the complexion look even.

More information about the effect of the sun on the face.

Read more about the structure of the skin.

The skin on the body is thicker than on the face – the cells are larger and do not release moisture as quickly.


A different sun protection is needed for the body skin than for the face skin.
With the right sunscreen, a number of skin conditions can be avoided:


UVB rays are responsible for acute UV damage: sunburn. Although they do not penetrate as deeply into the skin, they are the main cause of direct damage to DNA. Unprotected skin can turn red, blister and be very painful. This is particularly dangerous for children and adolescents, as it increases the risk of developing malignant melanoma or other forms of skin cancer later on. More information about protecting children from the sun.

Premature skin aging

Deep wrinkles and inelastic, sagging skin tissue are among the negative effects of sunlight. More information about premature skin aging.

Hyperpigmentation/dark spots

Excessive exposure to the sun is the main cause of hyperpigmentation – an unpleasant skin condition in which dark spots appear on the skin. More information about hyperpigmentation.

Polymorphic light dermatosis (PLD)

The normally covered body skin can react to sun exposure, for example in spring or during holidays. This skin condition, characterized by itching and a burning rash, is called PLD.

The neck and décolleté are exposed to as many sunrays as the face.


The shoulders also get a lot of sun in summer.


Acne aestivalis 

Unlike acne vulgaris, the red, inflamed lesions are not caused by hormonal changes and bacteria, but by the skin’s reaction to heat and sunlight and to certain ingredients in skin care products and sunscreens. This summer acne,  is very similar to PLD and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between these two skin types.


A sunscreen should also be used for neurodermatitis and psoriasis as the skin is already dry. Externally applied drugs can make the affected skin areas more susceptible to sunburn. Further information about neurodermatitis or psoriasis.

Diabetic skin

In diabetic skin, moisture is not bound as well as in a healthy person. The lack of moisture often leads to severe itching, which can affect the entire body. The sunlight dries the skin even more, making it more susceptible to infection. The reduced perception of pain in diabetics also increases the risk of sunburn.

Skin cancer

There are four different forms of cancer or cancer precursors associated with UV radiation. Actinic keratoses appear as small, round, reddish-brown tumors with a corneal layer on skin that has been exposed to the sun for a long time. Actinic keratosis is the preliminary stage of squamous cell carcinoma. It occurs particularly often on the face, head and back of the hands.

Basal cell cancer (basal cell carcinoma) is the most common form of skin cancer. It is mainly observed on the face and shows different shapes depending on its extension and depth. The most severe form of skin cancer is melanoma. Melanomas are mostly irregularly shaped, differently coloured and larger than 6 mm.

UVB rays can cause DNA damage, which is particularly dangerous in children and young people.


If you are worried about your skin, you should definitely consult a dermatologist.

Causes and triggers: What is the best way to prevent sunlight-induced damage?

The best way to avoid sunlight-related skin diseases is to avoid the sun as much as possible. Since this is not always possible or desirable, sun protection is important at this point. It is important to be aware that the dangerous rays also affect the skin on cloudy days, in the shade or in water, so sun protection should not only be used when sunbathing.

Even though sunlight has many positive effects – better mood, formation of vitamin D, better blood circulation and increased synthesis of melanin, the negative effects of UVA radiation (eye damage, suppression of the immune system, premature skin aging, Gene mutations (melanoma), sun allergy and sun intolerance) and UVB radiation (eye damage, tanning (Asian skin), sunburn and genetic mutations/other forms of skin cancer than melanoma) should be avoided to prevent skin damage.

To avoid the negative effects of UVA and UVB radiation as far as possible:
  • Avoid staying in direct sunlight, especially an extended stay between 11 and 15 o’clock.
  • Apply sunscreen generously and repeatedly.
  • Do not expose children to direct sunlight.
  • Consider the individual skin type and the corresponding effects.
  • Wear suitable clothing or headgear.
  • Take into account that medication can affect light sensitivity.
Wearing the right clothing when out in the sun can reduce the risk of sunlight-related damage.


Other influencing factors: What factors increase the risk of sunlight-related damage?

Some people are more prone than others to sunlight-induced skin damage and diseases. This can be based on many factors, including
  • HormonesA certain form of hyperpigmentation, melasma or chloasma, is most common in women, especially when the female sex hormones stimulate excessive melanin production when exposed to the sun.
  • GeneticsIf one or both parents suffered from skin cancer, the children are at greater risk.
  • AgeThe risk of skin cancer increases with age. Melanomas, which can occur on the entire body, occur more frequently in the age of 55 – 64 years than in younger people.
  • MedicationMedication, including certain birth control pills or antibiotics, can also increase sensitivity to light and susceptibility to pigmentation disorders.
  • After a dermatological treatmentChemical peelings and laser treatments can cause reddened and very light sensitive skin.
Medication, including certain birth control pills or antibiotics, can also increase sensitivity to light.


Hormones, genetic factors and age can also influence light sensitivity.


  • Skin colour: People with red or light blond hair, very pale skin and many freckles very often suffer from sunburn and do not get a good tan. Naturally pale skin is often more sensitive to light than other skin types.
  • Diseases: In psoriasis or neurodermatitis the skin is often dry and sensitive. Those affected therefore also need sun protection products specially adapted to their skin type.
  • Acne aestivalis: Mostly middle-aged women (25 – 40) are affected by this allergic reaction of the skin.


If you want to know if you are prone to a particular skin condition, consult your dermatologist.

Care recommendations: Solutions

Preventing and protecting the skin from light damage is particularly important because severe skin damage cannot always be repaired and then the damage is irreversible.

Creams and lotions for protection and prevention

To protect the body skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation:

  • Apply a sun protection product with suitable SPF.
  • Apply sufficient sunscreen.
  • Apply the sunscreen regularly and several times a day to keep the skin protected, especially after swimming, sweating or drying off.

The Eucerin sun protection products for the body contain a unique combination of UV filters and additionally the biological active ingredient Licochalcone A. The highly effective, light-stable UV filter system with Tinosorb S is a reliable protection against sunburn, while Licochalcone A protects the skin cells from sunlight-induced free radical damage due to its oxidation-inhibiting effect.

The sunscreens have been specially formulated to meet the requirements of the different skin types on the body:


For normal skin there is Eucerin Sun Lotion Extra Light with SPF 30 and SPF 50, which is quickly absorbed by the skin. It is also available as Sun Spray with SPF 20 and SPF 50+.

For dry skin we recommend Eucerin Sun Lotion Extra Light SPF 30/50 which is proven to be suitable for patients with problematic dry skin conditions, for example diabetes.

For neurodermatitis we recommend Eucerin Sun Lotion Extra Light and Eucerin Sun Lotion Dry Skin, which is proven to be suitable for patients with this skin disease.

Eucerin Sun Spray Transparent with SPF 30 or SPF 50 has been proven to provide particularly light protection for combination and acne-prone skin.

Eucerin Sun Allergy Protection Sun Creme-Gel with SPF 25 and SPF 50 is available for skin prone to sun allergy. The cream gel contains neither perfume nor emulsifiers to minimize the risk of intolerance. It has been proven to be effective against sun allergies such as PLD or Mallorca acne. In this case Eucerin Sun Allergy Protection After Sun Cream-Gel is recommended.

In addition to sun protection, it is important to cool, soothe and moisturize the skin after exposure to the sun. With every Eucerin sun protection for the body you should also use an After Sun product.

The choice of a sunscreen product that is tailored to the skin type is crucial. Certain skin types such as children’s skin or skin prone to allergies require special attention.

Further possibilities

In addition to cosmetic and medical sun protection products, there are other ways to protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation:

  • Protect vulnerable skin with clothing, such as long-sleeved T-shirts and long trousers.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim
  • Take a parasol or a sun sail with you when you spend the day outside. These are equipped with UV filters and reflective materials to minimize the effects of UVA and UVB rays.
  • The diet should contain many carotenoids (red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables). Regular consumption has been proven to strengthen the skin’s own defenses after some time. There is also evidence that the consumption of omega fatty acids (olive oil, fatty fish, etc.), little red meat and dairy products and a lot of vitamin C, vitamin E and flavonoids has a similar effect.
If you protect your skin with suitable clothing, sunlight-induced damage can also be prevented.


Abundant carotenoids and omega fatty acids strengthen the skin’s own defenses.


If you are concerned about sunlight-related skin damage, you should consult your dermatologist.

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