Sunburn: Causes, Treatments, Preventive Measures
Your first day on the beach was wonderful! You finally had the chance to bathe in the cool waters and give yourself the well-deserved relaxing time. Alas, there is a price to pay: at the end of the day your skin is red, sensitive, and burning. Yep, this is sunburn – something that’s hard to avoid when exposing your skin to the sun after a long time.
Sunburn: annoying or dangerous?
In short, both.
Sunburn is caused by the prolonged exposure of the skin to UV radiations. It’s a common condition, but each of us experiences it differently. For some, it is a short period of tenderness and warmth of the skin. For others, it means days of burning sensation, itchy skin, even blisters, and peeling. Whichever the case, sunburn should be avoided, since it can lead to more serious conditions – like skin cancer – later in life.
The first symptoms of sunburn are your skin turning red, tender, sensitive, and warm. This can last for up to a week. As the redness recedes, the skin often starts to peel, shedding its outer layer. After a few days, the skin returns to normal, and – depending on the skin type – it changes color.
Sunburn is easy to get, since the color changes – and the pain – don’t appear until a few hours after the exposure to the sun.
How to prevent sunburn
The best way to prevent sunburn is to expose your skin to the sunlight gradually. Spend half an hour sunbathing on the first day, 10 extra minutes on the second, and so on. This will give your skin time to adjust, to change its color, and protect itself from the harmful radiations of the sun. Make sure not to sunbathe in the hours with the strongest UV radiation (usually between 10 AM and 4 PM). Use a sunscreen when appropriate.
Use a sunscreen when appropriate. Choose the right one for your skin type. SPF30 works for most people, but a sensitive skin might need SPF30. Small kids should not go out in the sun without an SPF50 (or stronger) sunscreen. Make sure your sunscreen provides UVA protection. Re-apply sunscreen periodically, especially if you sweat a lot or go into the water.
How to treat sunburn
If you happen to burn, don’t panic. There’s no miracle cure for sunburn, but there are several home treatments you can apply to ease the pain. A cold compress reduces the burning sensation and a cool shower also provides some relief. Drinking plenty of fluids will also help reduce the effects. Applying a water-based emollient or a petroleum-based product (vaseline) will help your skin heal. Anti-inflammatory painkillers may also help ease the pain.
And avoid exposing the burnt areas to sunlight for at least a few days, until they heal completely.
A serious sunburn will cause your skin to blister or swell. It can also cause chills, a mild fever, headaches, and even dizziness. If this is the case, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention.