Your Skin Tanning or Sunburning Based on DNA

Skin Tanning or Sunburning: How your DNA impacts your skin

While getting a bit of sun every day is never a bad thing, there are negative effects to sun exposure that can be harmful to your skin and even your overall well-being. Getting a tan might be the norm when going to the beach for a vacation, but this doe not necessarily mean it is healthy or good for your skin. Skin tanning and sunburning are two different things. They are both reactions of the skin to too much sun exposure but one can be more painful than the other. 


Skin color is a big factor to consider in how your skin will respond to prolonged sun exposure. However, there are other factors as well such as genetics, skin type, and underlying medical conditions. Genetics plays a role in how your skin will respond to the sun’s rays and knowing more about it via genetic skin testing can help you plan your next day out better. 

Understanding Skin Tanning vs. Sunburning

By definition, skin tanning happens when the UV rays of the sun hit the skin and leave behind mutations that activate melanocytes to combat them by releasing extra melanin. This extra melanin causes the skin to darken. Sunburn, on the other hand, is a type of inflammation. When the skin is exposed to too much sun, it can blister, swell, and develop a rash due to the damage ultraviolet (UV) rays have caused. The skin can also become red and hot to the touch when it is sunburnt. 


Skin tanning gives your skin that glowy, healthy appearance while sunburning can be scratchy and painful. However, experts say that both are types of damage to the skin and can equally lead to premature skin aging and even skin cancer if you’re not careful enough. 


Fairer skin types have lesser melanin which means they produce fewer melanocytes that can combat the sun’s rays. Instead of tanning, people with fairer skin types tend to burn, the degree of which varies on the amount of time they have had sun exposure, their genetics, and their skin type. Whether you are aiming to have a nice tan or just want to be outdoors when the weather is nice, good quality sunscreen, adequate protective clothing, and avoiding the midday sun can protect your skin from sun damage.

How long does sunburn last?

It typically takes two to six hours after sun exposure for sunburn to show itself. Depending on the severity of the sunburn, it can be at its “peak” of redness and swelling 24 hours after being under the sun. It can fade in as little as 48 hours or last up to a week. There are a few factors that might affect how long a sunburn will last including skin fairness, length of sun exposure, certain medication and conditions, environmental climate or weather, and genetics. Some people are genetically predisposed to heal from skin damage at a much faster rate than others.

What is the best thing for sunburn?

The tired, old saying that prevention is better than a cure might be more true than you think. Preventing sunburn is much more effective (and efficient) than treating it. The number one thing many experts agree on? Wear sunscreen often, reapply when necessary, and do your research on how much SPF you will need to protect your skin. 


If you’re already sunburnt, don’t sweat it too much. If it is mild to moderate and the symptoms are tolerable, it should go away in a day or two without much help on your part. Try to keep the area clean and moisturized, avoid rubbing it with your hands or abrasive clothing, and try to stay hydrated to help your skin bounce back. If the pain is too much, try to see if you can get prescriptions for pain relief from your primary care physician in topical or medication form. 

Does sunburn turn into tan?

There are certain situations where sunburn may somewhat turn into tan. Most individuals with fair skin, for example, just get sunburnt after heavy sun exposure. Due to less melanin production, even after a few hours under the sun’s rays, fairer skin will turn red, swell, and often be painful. After the sunburn has completely healed, the skin may look tanner or darker in color but this usually will fade as well and at a quicker rate, depending on a few factors.

Can you sunburn your eyes?


Your skin is not the only one at risk when exposed to the sun’s UV rays. Your eyes are also vulnerable to the sun and can get sunburnt. This condition is called photokeratitis or ultraviolet keratitis. It is an inflammation of the cornea, the clear covering of your front eyes. Some symptoms of photokeratitis include eye pain, headache, swelling, redness, blurry vision, and a gritty sensation as if sand has entered your eyes. Just like protecting your skin, the best deterrent for sunburnt eyes is protection in the form of proper eyewear like sunglasses. 

How long does it take to get sunburn?

It depends on several factors including the amount of melanin in your skin, your genetics, and the amount of sun exposure you were subjected to. Some people get sunburnt in as little as half an hour under the scorching sun while others take a little longer to get baked under the sun. At its peak, the sun is at its hottest at around 10 A.M. until 3 P.M. Getting sun exposure during this window increases your likelihood of getting sunburnt.

Genetic Factors and Skin Tanning or Sunburning 

Many skin conditions have been found to be directly linked to genetics such as acne, psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema. While skin tanning and sunburning are acquired skin conditions rather than directly genetic skin conditions, your genetic variation can still affect how your skin responds to what causes skin tanning and sunburning. 


You may have genetic variations that let your skin tan rather than burn even with hours of sun exposure. You may also be genetically predisposed to get sunburnt despite being out for only a short period. Either way, your genes play a role in how your skin responds to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Moreover, your skin’s reaction to UV rays is also its mechanism to protect what is under your skin, that is, your DNA.


Knowing more about your DNA and how it relates to your skin can help you protect your skin and overall well-being better. Genetics plays an important role in learning about your genetic predispositions certain skin conditions like sunburns and even influences their development in the first place. A skin DNA test can help you figure out what you need. Curious to know more if you are more likely to tan or burn under the sun? Try LifeDNA today. 

*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

Our reports have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The contents on our website and our reports are for informational purposes only, and are not intended to diagnose any medical condition, replace the advice of a healthcare professional, or provide any medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results. The testimonials featured may have used more than one LifeDNA or LifeDNA vendors’ product or reports.