An elephant uses mud as a sunscreen, protecting its skin from ultraviolet light. Although tough, an elephant’s skin is very sensitive. Without regular mud baths to protect it from burning, insect bites and moisture loss, an elephant’s skin suffers serious damage. After bathing, the elephant will usually use its trunk to blow dust onto its body and this dries into a protective crust.
Elephants have difficulty releasing heat through the skin because of their low surface-area-to-volume ratio, which is many times smaller than that of a human. They have even been observed lifting up their legs, presumably in an effort to expose their soles to the air.