Sunburn Guide: Home Remedies and How to Prevent It
Last updated on : April 10 2017
At The Kewl Shop we are concerned about approaching our health and beauty in a natural and holistic way and have written a number of articles on the subject. As the impact of the sun can be so severe, especially on the skin, a discerning woman interested in keeping her looks over time and maximising her sexy should ensure she is always prepared and well informed. This post serves to do just this.
There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to sunburn. We’ve all been warned about the dangers of excessive sun exposure and the importance of taking precautions to avoid damaging the skin. What you may not know is that even short periods of time spent in the sun can result in premature aging and even some forms of skin cancers.
Not only can sunburn alter the condition and health of your skin it can also pose very serious and sometimes life-threatening health and medical risks. In some extreme cases, sunburn has been classified as second or third-degree burns requiring hospitalization or even surgery. Your eyes are not immune to sunburn either and if you’re not careful it could lead to irritation of the membranes and decreased eyesight over time. Essentially, sunburn is dangerous and can cause serious problems that may not materialize until several years later.
In this guide we take a hard look at sunburn and how to treat or avoid it. Through identifying what causes sunburn, who is at risk for sunburn, and how to properly determine if you have been sunburned we hope to give you confidence in showing and protecting your skin this spring and summer.
What Is Sunburn?
Sunburn is what occurs when the skin reacts to extreme ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure and becomes red, inflamed, and sometimes painful. The damage can range from mild to extreme and in some cases, it can be life-threatening or lead to long-term health complications. Although the main source of UV rays is sunlight, tanning lamps, and sunbeds there are other sources of UV radiation that can also lead to sunburn.
In less than 10 minutes of exposure to intense levels of UV radiation, the skin initiates a defensive mechanism against harmful UV rays. This defence mechanism is a pigment called melanin which is produced by skin cells called melanocytes.
Once the skin becomes exposed to UV radiation the production of melanin multiplies in an effort to protect the skin from further damage. This abnormal production of melanin then displays itself as what we call a tan. When this defensive system becomes overwhelmed from too much exposure it cannot produce melanin quickly enough causing a toxic reaction that results in what we know as sunburn.
Sunburn is not relegated to just sunny days. It’s possible to get sunburn on a cool or cloudy day. In fact, almost 80 percent of UV radiation can pass through clouds, reflect off snow and ice, sand, and other surfaces and can result in just as much damage as direct sunlight.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are 3 main types of UV rays:
- UVA rays – ultraviolet rays that are responsible for aging the skin and damaging skin cells. They are also responsible for long-term skin damage and some skin cancers. Most artificial sun and tanning beds emit high doses of UVA.
- UVB rays – these rays emit more energy than UVA rays and are extremely damaging to skin cells. UVB rays are mostly responsible for causing sunburn and most skin cancers. They are considered to be fatal and should be avoided at all costs.
- UVC rays – produce far more energy than all of the UV rays, however, they cannot penetrate the earth’s atmosphere and do not emit through sunlight. UVC rays have not been linked to skin cancer.
Symptoms of Sunburn
When wearing a sexy bandage dress or other skin revealing apparel such as a bandage swimsuit or bikini protecting and caring for your skin should be your number one priority. When faced with determining if your skin has been burned there are few symptoms to look for.
Sunburn often causes a lot of pain and discomfort. Depending on the level of exposure to ultraviolet radiation, symptoms of sunburn can range from mild to severe. In some cases, extreme exposure to UV rays can result in severe medical complications such as dehydration, skin and blood infections, sun poisoning, shock, and even death.
Although sunburn can occur within 10-15 minutes of exposure to the sun, in mild cases the symptoms may not appear until 6 hours or more after the first exposure. Within 24 hours symptoms should peak and usually subside within 3-5 days.
In moderate to severe cases of sunburn, symptoms may peak within 48 hours and can last for several days or weeks. Symptoms of moderate to severe sunburn can be accompanied by intense discomfort, fever, sickness, and even heat stroke.
Mild to moderate sunburn can cause symptoms such as the following:
- Skin redness
- Itchy or painful skin
- Dry patches or rashes
- Swelling and tenderness
- Tingling in the skin
- Skin may feel hot to the touch
- Peeling and flaking skin
Severe sunburn or sun poisoning can cause symptoms such as the following:
- Blistering skin
- Pain and tingling sensation
- Swelling and redness
- Headache and Dizziness
- Nausea and Sickness
- Chills and Fever
- Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
- Yellow drainage from blisters
The pain associated with sunburn is a result of the body attempting to repair itself from damage to the skin. The peeling that occurs as the skin begins to heal is your body ridding itself of the damaged skin cells. If these cells were to get out of control they could become pre-cancerous. The body has various methods of healing itself and this is just one process used to heal itself by eliminating sun damaged cells that could potentially turn into skin cancer. As a result, whole layers of damaged skin began to peel away and are replaced by new cells.
Although your skin cells will regenerate as new skin forms, some damage to the skin will remain. Not only does this greatly increase the risk for skin cancer it can also lead to permanent damage to the skin such as sagging skin, wrinkles, liver spots, hypopigmentation (irregular light patches), hyperpigmentation (irregular dark patches), and solar lentigines (sun spots). In fact, ultraviolet radiation damage is responsible for 90 percent of visible age signs in most adults.
Are You At Greater Risk for Being Sunburned?
Almost anyone can become sunburned but there are some people who are at greater risk. Those with weaker immune systems such as children, the elderly and those who may be undergoing cancer treatments may be at greater risk of developing skin cancer. People who have undergone radiation therapy or who may be taking photosensitizing medications may also be at a higher risk of becoming sunburned.
Those people who live or who may regularly vacation in areas with high altitudes also run the risk of becoming sunburned easily because the intensity of UV radiation increases the higher the altitude.
The risk of skin cancer is also much higher for those with fair, light-colored skin. African-Americans and Latinos have less of a risk for developing sunburn than whites. This is because there is a greater amount of melanin in darker toned skin which helps naturally protect against harmful UV radiation. Although no one is immune to the risks of harmful ultraviolet radiation, there are some precautions you can take to reduce and eliminate the risk of sunburn.
How Does Sunburn Affect the Skin?
Sunburn presents itself as visible ultraviolet radiation damage to the skin. The redness associated with sunburn is caused by an inflammatory response to repair the skin and dilating blood vessels known as capillaries.
Capillaries are small blood vessels located within the tissue of your skin. When sunburn occurs, an inflammatory response is initiated and the capillaries become filled with excessive amounts of blood. This produces the characteristic redness, blistering, pain, and swelling associated with sunburn.
The skin may also become tighter as it loses moisture and begins the process of producing melanin in an attempt to stop harmful UV rays from penetrating and damaging to skin cells and the melanin shows up on the skin as a tan. The more time you are exposed to UV radiation the more likely you will increase the amount of damage to the skin and the risk of serious skin damage.
The sunburned skin may also feel warm or hot to the touch. This generally comes from the increase in blood flowing to the damaged areas. The skin initiates an inflammatory response to the ultraviolet radiation as it attempts to heal itself and blood rushes to the exposed skin causing a slight elevation in temperature.
Short and Long Term Risks of Sunburn
There are several risks associated with sunburn. Sunlight emits radiation and although the skin has defence mechanisms in place to protect it, there is only so much that the skin can take before damage ensues. Continual overexposure to UV radiation leads to a breakdown of the connective tissue and permanent damage to the skin cells that can later form cancers such as melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma. Excessive and repeated sun exposure can also destroy the elasticity and collagen in your skin, cause unwanted wrinkles, and thin, weakened skin that bruises and cracks easily. Here is a list of other risks associated with sunburn.
Long-term sun exposure and sunburn can accelerate the aging process. When UV rays penetrate the skin they also destroy collagen and elasticity causing the skin and tissue to become weak. This can result in fine lines, deep wrinkles, red veins on the face, freckles on the face and shoulders, age and liver spots, and sagging skin making you appear much older than your actual age.
Sunburn can also lead to skin changes as a result of ultraviolet exposure called photoaging. Photoaging can result in changes in the skin color such as darkening of the skin also known as hyperpigmentation or discolored spots known as macules. These spots can also appear on the arms, back of the hands, chest, and the upper back. Excessive UV exposure can also lead to a loss of skin color resulting in light colored patches known as hypopigmentation.
Damage to the Eyes
Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation can cause immediate and long-term damage to the eyes. The retina, lens or the cornea can become damaged leading to clouded sight and blurred vision. When the eyes become stressed and impaired from excessive UV exposure the eyes may become watery, painful, or gritty.
Risk of Infection
Those painful blisters from sunburn can be dangerous. Once the blisters rupture they become more susceptible to bacteria and staph infection. Blisters may be painful at first but should subside over time. If the skin starts to blister as a reaction to sunburn be sure to keep the area clean, cool, and dry to reduce the risk of infections. Symptoms of continued pain, swelling, redness and yellow drainage may indicate a sign of infection and you should seek immediate medical attention.
Skin cancer usually develops in areas that are mostly exposed to sunlight including the face, ears, lips, scalp, neck, arms, chest, hands, legs, and upper back area. Women are more likely to develop skin cancer on the legs than men. Skin cancer can appear in several forms from a small growth, a scab that crusts over but refuses to heal, to the emergence of a new mole or changes in an existing one. You should speak with your doctor if you notice any changes to your skin, new growths, sores that won’t heal, moles, or suspicious dark spots.
How Can Sunburn Be Prevented?
In many cases, the long-term effects of sunburn may not show up until years later. However, there are precautions you can take to cut down your risk of being sunburned, exposed to harmful UV radiation, and left to deal with complicated health issues later on down the line. Consider these tips and skin care insights.
Use a Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen or Sunblock
Sunscreen and sunblock products contain ingredients that absorb, reflect, or block UV light to suppress the risk of sunburn. They are rated by a sunburn protection factor (SPF) based on how well it blocks out sunburn-causing UV rays. The higher the SPF rating the more protection there is against sunburn and damage to your skin. Use a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher. Broad-spectrum sunscreens are the best option because they protect against UVA and UVB rays. To get the most protection, sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before sun exposure and again 15-30 minutes after initial exposure. You only need to reapply after swimming or excessive sweating.
Wear Protective Clothing
Tightly woven fabrics such as canvas and cotton do well in protecting the skin against UV rays. Wide-brimmed hats 3-inches or greater can offer protection for your scalp, face, ears, and neck and sunglasses that block UV rays are the best options for protection against the sun. Clothing and hats that are darker in color will most likely offer more UV protection than lighter clothing.
Avoid Indoor Tanning Beds
Avoiding artificial sun and tanning beds can help prevent the development of skin cancer. Indoor tanning beds have proven to cause premature aging, wrinkles, liver spots, and an increased risk of melanoma and skin cancer. Even a few minutes spent in a tanning bed can greatly increase your risks of skin cancer.
Sunburn Treatment and Remedies
Most sunburn has the ability to heal on its own. Unfortunately, UV damage is irreversible and there are no treatments to repair the damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Sunburn treatments should be executed as soon as symptoms become present. The more immediate the treatment, the more effective the outcome in preventing further damage to the skin. Remember, sunburn can lead to permanent and irreversible damage so it’s important to act quickly.
As soon as you notice that the skin has become irritated from sunburn damage, apply a cool or cold compress to the skin to stop the skin from burning any further. You should never apply butter or oils to the area this will only further damage the skin and slow down the healing process. The affected skin should remain cool and be sure to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
If the pain becomes unbearable consult your physician. Your doctor may recommend aspirin, ibuprofen, or any over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) to be taken to relieve the pain. Topical treatments such as soothing oatmeal baths and Burow solution soaks are recommended to help alleviate some of the symptoms. You can also apply Vitamin E oil or Aloe Vera to the skin to soothe inflammation or Hydrocortisone cream to reduce inflammation and itching.
You can expect for the skin to start peeling within a few days of becoming sunburned. Use a cold, wet compress or take cooling baths when this occurs. Allow the skin to peel naturally and do not further peel the skin away. Pat the skin dry with a clean towel and do not rub or cause friction to the skin to avoid further irritation. You can apply a light moisturizer or hydrocortisone cream to cut down on any itching or inflammation.
If the skin starts to blister do not puncture or deliberately pop them because it could increase your risk of infection. Even if you are using a sterilized needle causing premature damage to any blisters could slow down the healing process. The blisters on your skin contain a natural serum that assists in the healing process. Breaking them can also be extremely painful and cause further inflammation of the skin.
In extreme cases of sunburn, dehydration can occur and hospitalization may be required. In situations like this, fluids are given through an IV to help rehydrate and rebalance electrolytes and the patient is closely monitored for possible complications.
Natural Relief From Sunburn
The best way to avoid getting sunburned is prevention but we know that it may not always be preventable. The first thing most people want when dealing with sunburn is relief from the itching and pain. There are several natural remedies that can help relieve the painful, itchy discomfort of sunburn.
Aloe vera is an age-old home remedy for treating sunburn. It has amazing anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe the skin and relieve the discomfort associated with sunburn. You can extract the gel from a section of the aloe vera plant and apply it directly to the skin. Natural aloe vera gel or lotions without preservatives can also provide immediate relief. Aloe vera can be applied to the skin as often throughout the day as needed.
100%Pure has the perfect Aloe Vera Facial and Margarita recipe. The aloe vera in the facial is anti-aging, wound healing and extremely hydrating. If you have any aloe left over from the facial preparations you can make yourself a wonderfully soothing margarita. Please note that we have an affiliate agreement with 100%Pure and earn a small commission from sales generated from this link.
This amazing all-natural astringent has been known for its long-term anti-inflammatory relief of sunburn symptoms. It can be applied all over the body using a cotton ball for smaller areas and a cool, moist cotton towel for larger areas. Witch hazel works to immediately alleviate some of the discomfort and burning associated with sunburn.
There are natural soothing properties in oatmeal that help the skin retain moisture and cut down on inflammation. You can add 1 cup of uncooked oatmeal to your bath water for a soothing soak. As an alternative, you can cook 1 cup of oatmeal until it has a runny consistency and gently apply it to the skin to soothe discomfort. Leave the mixture on the skin for 30 minutes to one hour before rinsing. Oatmeal should not be used as a natural remedy if you are allergic to oats.
Black tea contains beneficial antioxidants to help soothe and treat irritated and sunburned skin. The tea also contains tannins which help protect the skin from UV radiation, damage, and irritation. The antioxidants in the tea also help regenerate skin cells and restore the skin’s pH balance. Black tea bags are also safe to use on the eyelids if sunburn is present.
Another natural remedy for soothing sunburn is baking soda. Baking soda is naturally alkaline and has antiseptic properties that can relieve sunburn itching and soothe irritation. Add one cup of baking soda to your bathwater and soak for 15 minutes for immediate relief. Also, you could mix baking soda with water until forming a paste and apply it directly to the affected skin for relief.
When To Call A Doctor For Your Sunburn
Exposure to excessive amounts of ultraviolet radiation can cause irreversible damage to your skin and long-term health. If your sunburn becomes severe and is accompanied by painful, swollen blisters covering a large area of your body then you may want to seek medical attention.
Your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid to help reduce the swelling and calm symptoms. You should seek immediate medical attention if your sunburn is accompanied by a high fever, chills, headache, excruciating pain, dehydration, dizziness, confusion, or nausea. In some cases, sunburn can result in an infection of the skin or blood which could have serious effects on your health. If your sunburn isn’t responding to at-home treatments or it doesn’t start to heal within a few days you may want to see your physician for professional treatments.
It’s no wonder there are so many warnings against sunburn and sun damage. The intensity of the ultraviolet radiation from the sun can cause some pretty nasty immediate effects but the long-term damage can be serious resulting in permanent skin damage, premature aging, and even the development of certain skin cancers. Always take the necessary precautions when you plan to spend time outdoors and try to stay out of direct sunlight especially between the hours of 10am and 4pm when ultraviolet rays are at their peak.
- Skin Cancer Foundation
- Medical News Today
- American Society for Dermatologic Surgery
- American Cancer Society
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