Have you ever come across someone lying on a lounge chair or on a mat with little or no clothes on, trying to get a skin tan, but at the end, they walk in looking lobster-red instead of the pleasantly brown color they initially wanted. A miserable image, right? Well, that’s the picture of what sunburn looks like.
Here is a list of top remedies to heal a sunburn:
- Cools baths or showers
- Moisturizers containing Aloe Vera
- Anti-Inflammatory medication
- Clothing and avoid staying under sunlight
- Do not pop any blisters
- Apple cider vinegar
- Turmeric powder paste
- 1% silver sulfadiazine cream (consult your doctor)
Sunburn is a sort of radiation burn which has an effect on living tissues such as the skin. It occurs as a result of over exposure to what is known as ultraviolet (UV) rays mostly from the sun.
Sunburn is an inflammatory response in one’s skin; the ultraviolet (UV) radiation triggers direct DNA damage in the body (Wikipedia.org).
Excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays directly from sunlight is the major cause of sunburn but it can also be caused by sunlamps and tanning beds as these produce ultraviolet radiation too.
You might have heard of ‘loose tan’ before now, it is nothing but a sign of damage to the skin. Any tan on your skin is a response to ultraviolet exposure. Sunburn’s redness is caused by extra blood in the capillaries.
Severe UV damage
Severe UV damage to skin is not necessarily caused by severe sunburn, any damage can lead to skin cancer which is the most common type of cancer in the world today (Bioelements.com).
According to medical research, over one-third of adults and close to 70% of children admit to have gotten sunburned within the past year (WebMD).
Symptoms of Sunburn
Sunburn like every other medical ailment has its own symptoms and signs. These include:
- Pinkness or redness of skin
- Skin feels warm or hot to touch
- Pain and Tenderness
- Small fluid-filled blisters
- Headache, fever, nausea and fatigue if the sunburn is severe
In general, sunburn starts with an initial redness known as erythema, which is then followed by varying level of pain, which is mostly in proportion with the duration and concentration of exposure to sunlight.
Other symptoms and signs of sunburn include blistering swelling (edema), pruitus (itching), peeling skin, rash, nausea, fever, chills, and fainting (syncope).
Sunburns may be classified as superficial or partial thickness burns. Sunburn blistering is a sign of second degree burn (Aad.org).
There may be variations in the symptoms of sunburn as minor sunburns averagely cause skin redness and tenderness in the parts of skin that are affected. Blistering can occur in more serious cases.
Severe sunburns can be so painful and may require hospital care.
How Long Does It Take For a Sunburn to Develop?
Sunburn can occur in as little as 15 minutes when exposed to direct sunlight and may occur within seconds when exposed to a non-shielded welding arc or some other sources of strong and powerful ultraviolet light. However, the damages are not noticeable until after few minutes or hours.
Skin may turn red or pink within 30 minutes of the exposure, and in most cases, it takes 2 to 6 hours to become very obvious.
The sunburn pain is usually strongest around 6 to 48 hours after exposure and the burn continues for 1 to 3 days after exposure. This is followed by peeling skin within 3 to 8 days which may sometimes continue for several weeks.
Ultraviolet radiation leads to sunburns and raises the risk of three types of skin cancer: melanoma, basal-cell carcinoma as well as squamous-cell carcinoma. According to a study, it is estimated that one-third of melanoma cases in the United States and Australia could be prevented with consistent application of sunscreen.
Causes of Sunburn
Cause #1: UV Radiation
UV radiation causes sunburn; the rays could either be from the sun or from artificial sources which include ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, welding arcs or tanning lamps. Sunburn is a body reaction to direct DNA damage from UVB light.
As soon as the body recognizes the damage, it triggers several defensive mechanisms such as DNA repair to revert the damage, peeling and apoptosis which help remove damaged skin cells that cannot be repaired, and increasing melanin production in the body to prevent damage of cells in the future (Wikipedia.org).
UV rays penetration and the resultant sunburn is dependent on various skin types. Generally, people with lighter skin as well as people with inadequate capacity of having a tan after UV radiation are the ones with greater risk of sunburn.
Skin responses to UV radiation is better described by the Fitzpatrick’s Skin phototypes classification, which ranges from Type I to Type VI, with Type I having the greatest likelihood of sunburn while Type VI has the least likelihood of having sunburn.
Important Note: The Fitzpatrick’s Skin Phototypes
- Type I: Pale white skin – does not tan and burns easily
- Type II: White skin – tans with difficulty and burns easily
- Type III: White skin – tans easily but may burn
- Type IV: Light brown/olive skin – tans easily and hardly burns
- Type V: Brown skin – tans easily and usually does not burn
- Type VI: Black skin – becomes darker with UV radiation and very unlikely to burn
Cause #2: Age
Skin responses to sun is also affected by one’s age, as adults older than sixty and children younger than six have more possibility of sunburn than others.
Cause #3: UV Intensity
According to UV Index, the danger of getting sunburn at a particular location and a given time contributes to sunburn. Factors responsible for this includes:
- Time of the day: In many areas, the sun has its strongest rays between the hours of 10am and 4pm.
- Season of the year: Severe sunburn may be caused by the position of the sun in the late spring and early summer.
- Proximity to the equator (latitude): The closer a region is to the equator, the more exposure to direct sunlight they get.
- Cloud cover: UV to some extent is blocked by clouds; on a cloudy day however, a momentous percentage of sun’s harmful UV radiation can still bypass the clouds.
- Altitude: At a higher altitude, the possibility of getting burnt is higher, as there is less of earth’s atmosphere to block the sunlight. It is a fact that for every 1000 feet gain in elevation, UV exposure increases by about 4% (305m).
- Proximity to reflective surface: Reflective surfaces such as water, concrete, sand, snow and ice potentially reflects sun’s rays which results in sunburns.
Cause #4: General Tanning Affinity
Sun tan naturally builds up in some individuals as a form of protective mechanism against sunlight. This, however, is seen as desirable by most people in the Western world.
As a result of this, there is a great rise in exposure to UV radiation from direct sunlight as well as tanning lamps. It is medically confirmed that sunburns associated with indoor tanning can cause severe damage to the skin and the skin cells (NCBI).
It is therefore advised by the World Health Organization and many other medical bodies that artificial UV sources e.g. tanning beds should be avoided and suntans are not recommended as form of sun protection.
Cause #5: Ozone Depletion
In comparison to previous decades, the severity of sunburn and harshness of sunlight has increased recently, partly due to the damage of atmosphere’s ozone layer.
The depletion of ozone layer by 4% has led to 4% increase in sunburn in some areas, especially the southern hemisphere.
Cause #6: Genetic Conditions
There are certain genetic conditions that raises one’s defenselessness to sunburn and in later stages, cancer.
Xeroderma Pigmentosum is an example of such. These genetic disorders are caused by some shortcomings in the DNA repair mechanisms which as a result reduce the ability to repair DNA that has been damaged by UV radiation.
How to Prevent Sunburn: 7 Practical Tips
Tip #1: Sunscreen with proper SPF
Go for a sunscreen product with good SPF (sun protection factor) measures, as SPF is capable of protecting the skin from UVB rays. Sunscreen products with SPF 15 usually protect the skin from sunburn 15 times longer than when not using it.
It is recommended that you use a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 if you are only looking forward to stay in the sun for a short period of time, however, if you plan to stay long in the sun a stronger sunscreen e.g. SPF 30 is a healthier option. On the other hand, for a pale sensitive skin, it’s best to use a sunscreen with at SPF 50.
Tip #2: Avoid sunlight during its peak hours
According to studies, it is revealed that the sun’s UV rays are very powerful between 10 am and 4 pm; and it is during this period that you are at a very great risk of getting sunburn. As a result, staying indoors during these hours will help you avoid the harmful sun rays.
It is good you plan and program your outdoor activities so that it doesn’t fall under these hours. If you must go outside during these periods, then, make sure you do not stay out for too long.
In order for you to determine the intensity of the sun’s UV rays, pay close attention to your shadow when under sun – when your shadow is longer than you are, then UV exposure is low, but if your shadow is shorter, it means UV exposure is high and you should seek shade.
Tip #3: Avoid base tan
It is assumed by many people that if they have a skin tan, they won’t get sunburned when they are exposed to sun. Therefore, many people set out to have a base tan in order to ‘shield’ themselves from sun rays.
What they do not know is that a tan doesn’t offer protection from the sun and tanning always whether under direct sun or tanning bed can do long-term damage to the skin; it should therefore be avoided altogether.
If you are looking to change the color of your skin, you can go for spray on or self-tanning products, as they are safer than any other means of tanning.
Tip #4: Protect your head and eyes with accessories
Having a head wear or eyeglasses will help protect you from sun rays. Accessories such as baseball cap, hat and sunglasses doesn’t only give you an elegant style, they also help protect your scalp, and face from sunburn.
The reason for this is that it is difficult to apply sunscreen to the head as well as area near the eyes. While choosing sunglasses, it is important to go for those that offer 100% UV protection so that your eyes will be well shielded from UVA and UVB rays.
Tip #5: Sunscreen should be well applied
When applying sunscreen to your skin, it is essential you apply a generous amount, as little quantity won’t give your skin the full benefits.
It is therefore recommended that you use one ounce or a shot glass full of sunscreen to cover exposed areas of your body, which includes your face, ears, as well as scalp (Skincare.org).
Best protection is gotten by applying sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going out, this helps the sunscreen contents to be absorbed by your skin. On the other hand, some sunscreens recommend the amount of time to apply before exposure on their label
Tip #6: Wearing the right clothes to avoid sunburn
There are times we can’t avoid being outside between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, it is therefore important to pay attention to the kind of clothes you wear.
Your skin is covered more by long sleeve shirts as well as trousers, so endeavor to wear these if you’re going to be out during those peak hours.
Some clothes are made to be sun protective, labels of such clothes specifies their UV protection factor (UPF).
Dark clothing items are capable of blocking sun rays than lighter colored clothing items, also, clothes made of synthetic fabric are more proficient in protection against sun rays than other types of clothes.
Tip #7: Staying under the shade
When you are under sunlight, try to stay in areas that have protection against sunlight, such as under a tree, under building shadows; also, you can move around with an umbrella to shield you from the sun when in areas that doesn’t provide much shade.
How to Treat Sunburn: 5 Simple Treatments
It has been said before that prevention is the best treatment for any form of ailment, same goes for sunburn, as the primary measure is to avoid sun’s UV rays. Also, it should be noted that another good treatment for sunburn is time, and most sunburns heal within a few weeks.
Treatment #1: Cool baths or showers
You should take cool baths or showers for pain relief, and this should be done frequently.
Treatment #2: Moisturizers
Employ the use of moisturizers that contain soy or Aloe Vera. These moisturizers can be purchased over the counter and can be applied on the areas that are painful.
Treatment #3: Anti-Inflammatory Medications
Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin are drugs that are capable of reducing sunburn pains.
Treatment #4: Hydration
Keep your body hydrated by drinking extra water. Staying hydrated will help reduce pains caused by sunburn blisters.
Treatment #5: Clothing
Be sure to wear loose clothing when going outdoors in order to prevent further damage to the skin.
Anti-Inflammatory drugs that do not have steroids (such as naproxen and aspirin) have the ability of decreasing the pain and redness of skin.
Home treatments also help in treating discomforts which include using cool and wet clothes on the affected areas of the skin.
How to Treat Blistered Sunburn: 12 Pieces of Good Advice
Blisters are second degree burn, caused by sunburn which causes deeper damage in the skin. This type of burn takes longer to heal and they appear few hours after sunburn occurs, and sometimes take up to 24 hours to develop.
These blisters caused by sunburn are extremely painful, and they usually take about a week to heal. This burn increases the risk of having melanoma and skin cancer.
Advice #1: Avoid staying under sunlight
Staying away from sunlight is the best treatment against sunlight blisters. You have a soft and gentle skin and exposing it to sun’s UV rays harms it a lot. If you have any reason to stay under sun, it is important to wear sunscreen with a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor) as well as clothes that helps protect the skin from the harmful UV rays. Also, do not stop wearing sunscreen after the blisters have been healed.
Advice #2: Bath
It is important you take your bath constantly and relax for 10 to 20 minutes, as this can greatly help reduce the pain. This process should be repeated often for several days. You can also soak a face towel in cold water and apply on the affected area of your skin.
Advice #3: Aloe Vera
One effective natural treatment for sunburn blisters is Aloe Vera. The gel of this plant is suitable for cooling off the burnt area of the skin, and is capable of reducing pain caused by the burn as well as rehydrating the affected area; it is also very good for healing sunburn blisters. Research has established the fact that Aloe Vera helps to heal burns 9 days faster.
It is the best to use the plant’s gel itself without any mixture. Aloe ice cubes can be used to soothe the pain as well as for skin treatment. It is important you don’t apply Aloe Vera on open wounds.
Advice #4: Emollients
Moisturizers are types of emollients that can be used in treating blistered sunburn; they help by making peeling and flaking of skin less visible and help soothe the skin. Some moisturizers to use include soy-based moisturizers as soy is a natural moisturizer that helps heal the skin.
Avoid petroleum jelly as a form of moisturizer as well as thick moisturizers, as they will block the skin from releasing heat. Also, do not apply anything on popped blisters.
Advice #5: Do not pop the blisters
Don’t touch the affected areas or try to pop the blisters, as they can pop on their own. Popping it yourself increases the chances of infection, also it damages the fragile and lower layers of the skin. It is recommended that you see a dermatologist if you feel your skin is infected as a result of the blisters. Some symptoms of skin infections may include one or more of redness, swelling, pain and heat.
Advice #6: Drink water
It is important that you take plenty of water, as sunburn draws fluid away from the body which may lead to dry mouth, headache, thirst, lightheadedness and decreased urination. Taking at least eight glasses of water each day will help with this. You can also consider taking sports drinks and fruit juices.
Advice #7: Apple cider vinegar
The malic acid and acetic acid in vinegar can help reduce the effect of sunburn, while also helping reestablish the affected areas’ pH levels; which prevents microorganisms from making the skin a home. Apple cider vinegar is useful in treating blistered sunburn by absorbing heat from the skin as well as relieving the burning sensation of the pain.
Advice #8: Tomato
You can also consider using tomato juice to reduce the effect of blistered sunburn’s pain sensation, as well as redness of the areas affected. This also helps with overall healing of the skin.
Application: Mix ¼ of tomato juice or paste with ½ cup of buttermilk together and apply on the burned area. Leave the mixture on the skin for about 30 minutes before washing off gently with cold water. To get an instant pain relief, mix mashed raw tomato with crushed ice and apply on the affected area.
Advice #9: Turmeric powder paste
Turmeric is another natural remedy for blistered sunburn; it contains antibacterial compounds as well as antiseptic properties which may help relief the pain and inflammation caused by sunburn.
Application: Mix turmeric with milk or water, then apply on blisters; after which you can rinse off gently after 10 minutes. You can also mix turmeric with yogurt to create a thick paste and apply it on the affected areas, allow it to work its magic for 30 minutes before washing it off gently with cold water.
Advice #10: 1% silver sulfadiazine cream
1% silver sulfadiazine cream is a strong chemical capable of killing bacteria, and it is used to treat second and third degree burns. Before using this cream, it is important you consult your doctor about its side effects, as it comes with some side effects, although rare. They include pain, itching and burning of treated skin.
Advice #11: Pain medication
If you are feeling too uncomfortable with the pain, you may take medications such as ibuprofen (a not-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that reduces the hormones that cause pain and inflammation), aspirin (relieves pain by holding back pain signals in the brain) and acetaminophen (this helps relief pain and inflammation – safer for children).
Advice #12: Cold water or cold compress
Cold water or cold compress has the ability of reducing the pain caused by the burn by narrowing the blood vessels as well as lessening blood flow in the affected area. Cool temperature helps the affected areas become less sensitive, giving you instant relief from the burning sensations.
Reasons Why You Still Get Sunburned After Taking Protective Measures: 5 Key Reasons
So many people wonder why they still get sunburned despite taking protective measures. Well, several factors can contribute to that, and they include one or more of the following:
Reason #1: Reading on phone while under sunlight
Mobile phones and tablets, especially iPhones and iPads can increase exposure to sunlight by 36 percent.
Unless you are using a mobile device that is designed to have less reflective power, it is advised that one should avoid reading from these devices while under sunlight.
If you absolutely have to read from them, wear sunglasses. For poolside readers, it is important you apply sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses, and sit under a tree or umbrella.
Reason #2: Alcoholic Beverages
Researchers from Harvard Medical School in 2006 analyzed data from 300,000 people, and they made two findings.
The first being that 34 percent of the respondents admitted they had scorched skin in the past year. And the second finding was that alcohol consumers are more likely to have sunburn than those who do not consume alcohol.
The same research showed that heavy drinkers (i.e. those that have five or more alcoholic beverages) had 22 percent higher risk of sunburn than those that do not drink. The finding also had it that those that took only one drink still had more sunburn than those that do not. The research thus estimated 18% of sunburn to alcohol use (RD.com).
Reason #3: Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s Disease, rheumatoid, lupus and arthritis increases skin’s vulnerability to sunburn. These diseases often leave skin more sensitive to sun light.
Reason #4: Skin Exfoliation
Another reason for getting sunburned despite taking preventive measures is exfoliation. Using mechanical cleansing devices, retinoids or alpha-hydroxy acids e.g. glycolic acids to soften or smoothen skin makes you more defenseless under sunlight. Removing those protective cells leaves your skin exposed, unguarded and more vulnerable to sunburn.
Reason #5: Drugs
Do you know that some drugs can increase one’s sensitivity to sun? Well, the truth is, some drugs leave the skin to be more vulnerable, which causes the skin to burn in less time, even when exposed to lower UV radiation.
Some of these drugs include – OTC pain relievers (such as naproxen and ibuprofen), oral contraceptives, and antidepressants. Antibiotics (e.g. ciprofloxacin and doxycline) diuretics, oral retinods, tropical retinods (e.g. isotretinon, acitretin, tazarotene and tretinoin). Increase in sensitivity to sunlight stops once the body has done away with the medication (RD.com).
How to Treat Sunburn on the Face: 6 Simple Solutions
Solution #1: Get out of the sun
The moment you notice that your skin is looking a bit pink or red; it is important you get out of the sun immediately and make your way indoors. Doing this will help you avoid severe or blistered sunburn.
Solution #2: Splash cool water on your face
Cool your face immediately by splashing cool water on it and patting it dry with a soft towel. Also, place a wet washcloth or towel on the affected area and hold in order to help you reduce the heat and hot sensations of the sunburn.
Solution #3: Apply aloe or moisturizers
You can apply pure Aloe Vera on the affected area to help cool things off. You can also apply moisturizers that contain soy. Moisturizers containing petroleum jelly, lidocaine or benzocaine are not recommended for treating sunburn.
Solution #4: Take medications
Taking medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen painkiller as soon as you start noticing symptoms of sunburn can help you a great deal in managing pain, discomfort and inflammation.
Solution #5: Stay hydrated
Ensure you drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated after you’ve noticed symptoms of sunburn. Sunburn is one major cause of dehydration, which can lead to fatigue and headaches. Taking water, fruit juice and sports drinks will keep you hydrated as well as replenishing lost electrolytes.
Solution #6: Avoid the sun until sunburn symptoms heal
Keep in mind that you should try as much as possible to avoid staying under sun when you still have sunburn symptoms. Also ensure you wear a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF.
Products You Can Use to Treat Sunburn
The burn and pain caused by sunburn can lead to great discomfort and uneasiness, however, there are some products that can help you relieve this pain, and some of them are listed below:
- Aloe Vera
- Medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen painkiller
- Turmeric paste
- 1% silver sulfadiazine cream
Sunburn is a medical condition capable of causing severe pain and discomfort to an affected person, adhering to all that has been discussed in this article will help you a great deal in avoiding, preventing as well as treating sunburn.
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