Sunburn: The Complete Guide

by | Sep 10, 2020 | Blog, Skin Cancer, Sunburns

Sunburn on the shoulder

Where there is sun, there is also the risk of sunburn. This is especially true for those of us with fair skin but just about anyone can get burnt. Here we’ve collated the work of our dermatologists into one comprehensive guide…

First and foremost, it’s always important to keep in mind that our skin is a sensitive organ, susceptible to injury like any other body part. The most common skin injury during the summertime is actually a sunburn. Sunburns are first-degree burns of the skin caused by overexposure to UV rays. Symptoms include redness, hot skin to the touch, peeling, and fatigue.


What Happens when your Skin Burns?


As our skin absorbs sunlight, cell damaging UVA and UVB rays sink into the skin’s outer layers. We then start generating more melanin, a pigment-darkening molecule that helps protect us from burning.

Unfortunately, it can take up to three days for these new molecules to develop and reach the skin’s outer-most layer. At this stage, more blood flows to the affected areas in an attempt to promote healing. It is this blood collecting below the skin’s surface that makes sunburns look red and feel warm. Sometimes the damaged skin cells peel off. Unfortunately, however, the damage done to the DNA of cells deeper in our skin layers is not reversible.

The risk is that these cells mutate and turn into skin cancer. A recent study published in Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention, the journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, found that cumulative sun exposure over a young woman’s life significantly increased her chances of developing skin cancer.

Specifically, the new research suggests that having just five blistering sunburns before the age of 20 may increase one’s risk of developing melanoma (the most deadly form or skin cancer) by 80 percent.

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How to Prevent A Sunburn


Firstly, applying sunscreen should be incorporated into everyone’s daily routine, regardless of the season. It prevents photo aging, skin cancer, and other skin problems. Despite its importance, it is worth nothing that sunburns can occur with or without the application of sunscreen.

Natural oils and direct light can dissolve the protective properties in sunscreens – that’s why it is essential to reapply every two hours.

In addition, wearing hats, caps, other protective gear and staying in the shade can decrease the likelihood of being burned.


How to Treat A Sunburn


Since the skin is hot and inflamed, the goal is to cool and soothe from inside and out. Take an ibuprofen or Advil to tackle the painful inflammation and drink lots of water. Since sunburns leave the body dehydrated, your body can heal faster when you keep it hydrated.

  • Avoid hot showers/baths and opt for cold or lukewarm showers. After bathing, pat yourself dry and apply a soothing moisturizer to damp skin.
  • Don’t apply petroleum jelly to the inflamed skin as it can heat up and further irritate the skin.
  • Look for remedies with aloe vera, milk, or yogurt or apply them directly to the affected areas.
  • Avoid fragrances and any active ingredients, especially acids like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and lactic acid.
  • Don’t pick your blisters or peeling skin. When the body repairs itself after first and second degree burns, the skin can peel and blisters may appear. That interrupts the healing process by damaging the skin’s natural restoration process.
  • Lastly, consult a doctor if you experience fevers and chills. That might signify something more serious than an average sunburn.

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5 Remedies to Ease Sunburn at Home


Here are our recommendations on 5 natural remedies to ease sunburns at home.


Aloe Vera – Great for Sunburns

1. Aloe Vera

Among the natural remedies to ease sunburns, Aloe Vera is one of the most powerful. It helps to regenerate and soothe the skin, reducing the heat effect produced by over-exposure to the sun. Aloe vera is also known for its healing, anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties, so it will not only help you ease sunburn effects, but will also provide extra nutrients to your skin.

How to apply: It is recommended that you apply aloe vera directly from the plant. To do this, you must cut a chunk of the plant and apply the gel directly to the sunburned skin. It will provide immediate and soothing relief. In case you don’t have an aloe vera plant, look for a 100% aloe vera gel at the pharmacy and apply it gently to the area irritated by the sun. We recommend putting it in the refrigerator before applying as this gives it an even fresher feeling on your skin.


2. Natural Yoghurt

Natural yoghurt properties helps to ease sunburns due to the dairy value. When applied it cools the heat of the skin.

How to apply: Simply place some cold yoghurt on a piece of cotton or cloth and apply it to the inflamed skin. Remember not to scrub the skin in any case. After 5-10 minutes, wash the area with cold water to remove it.


3. Oatmeal

Oats are also well known in skin treatments for their anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. Oats are rich in antioxidants and are commonly used as a remedy to ease sunburns. In addition, they help to retain the skin’s natural moisture, making them very beneficial for treating sunburn.

How to apply: You can apply oatmeal directly to the affected area and leave it for a few minutes. The oatmeal will be more effective if it is not mixed with anything else but it can also be applied during a bath in lukewarm water. Just add a cup of oats or oat milk to the water and let it work.


4. Natural oils

Perhaps the best-known oil is rosehip oil for its scar healing and antioxidant properties. However, there are a number of oils that are consider to be good remedies to ease sunburns such as argan oil, lavender oil, sweet almond oil and hypericum. Natural oils will soothe the burned area and provide your skin with extra nutrients, such as vitamin A and C.

How to apply: Apply the oils twice a day with the palms of your clean hands. Be sure not to expose yourself to the sun after applying.


5. Drink plenty of water!


Hydrate With Water

We know this is not a natural remedy as such, but it is perhaps the most important remedy for treating sunburn. Sunburn draws fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body. Drinking extra water when you are sunburned helps prevent dehydration. Keeping your body hydrated from the inside and out is one of the fastest ways to heal.

Also, don’t forget to take frequent cool baths or showers to help relieve the pain. As soon as you get out of the bathtub or shower, gently pat yourself dry, but leave a little water on your skin. Then, apply a moisturizer to help trap the water in your skin. This can help ease the dryness.

Lastly, reach out to a doctor if you experience fevers and chills, severe eczema or a severe sunburn with blisters. A good rule of thumb is to check if the damaged skin is larger than the palm of your hand, if yes, you should seek help from a healthcare provider.

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Consult Our Dermatologists

If you are concerned about a sunburn, blister or mole that has popped up we recommend speaking to our dermatologists. They can provide an instant answer on any concern. Since it is vital that skin cancer is spotted early, we would always recommend speaking to a professional the moment you have a concern.

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