Sunshine, although essential for health and well-being, is also a hazard for the skin. For many people it feels good to go to the beach or engage in other outdoor activities. However too much sun exposure can cause significant damage to the skin. Sunburn can affect any part of the body. Even the eyes can burn after too much exposure. Intense or prolonged exposure to UV light produced by the sun can cause the skin to burn, leading to pain, redness and swelling. The initial symptoms of redness typically show up a few hours after sun exposure and tend can last several days before fading. After a few days, the skin will begin a “healing” process in which the damaged top layer of skin will begin to peel off. Occasionally the skin underneath will vary in tone. After a few days, skin will return to normal. Chronic or excessive sun exposure can also put you at risk for developing skin cancer.
Common symptoms of sunburns include:
- Redness or pinkness of the skin
- Skin that is warm to the touch
- Pain and tenderness
- Blisters which may rupture and leak
- Peeling of skin in a few days after burning
Chronic exposure to the sun’s UV rays is the primary cause of sunburn. Over time, skin damage from UV radiation can accumulate, greatly increasing your chances of developing skin cancer.
Be gentle with sunburned skin. Use gentle cleansers that are fragrance and allergen-free to avoid irritating damaged areas of the skin. Choose lotions that contain aloe and chamomile, which can soothe the skin. Look for moisturizers that contain UV filters, which can offer additional safeguards against UV radiation. Make sure to apply these frequently and generously, to adequately hydrate and protect the skin.
Since sun damage is caused by exposure to UV rays, it’s important to take preventive measures when going outdoors.
Limit sun exposure: Reducing your time in the sun is perhaps the easiest way to avoid damage to your skin caused by UV rays. When outdoors, set a time limit and seek shade when necessary. Also keep in mind that UV radiation is the strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Use Sunscreen: Sunscreens are an essential part of protection against the sun. Look for sunscreens labeled “Broad Spectrum”. They are often the most effective and offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply generously and frequently.
Cover and protect: Wrap-around sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and clothing that covers your arms and legs, can offer extra protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Look for any changes in your skin: If any changes in existing moles, or new skin growths are noticed, consult with a dermatologist immediately to determine if the symptoms may be precancerous.
Daily use of a sunscreen can greatly reduce your chances of sunburn. Look for sunscreens that contain Benzophenone, Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. These active ingredients are helpful in preventing sun damage.Make sure your sunscreen offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays. These will be simply labeled “broad spectrum”. Asprin or Advil may help reduce inflammation.
A doctor may prescribe topical corticosteroids, which can provide early relief.