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An Overview on Sunburn - Causes, Symptoms and Home Remedies

Sunburn can cause the skin to burn if a person’s exposure to it is without proper clothes and a good sunscreen. More particulars and supporting information is the below-given article.

1. What is sunburn?
2. Causes of sunburn
3. Sunburn symptoms
4. Home remedies for sunburn
5. Prevention for sunburn

1. What is sunburn?

The term sunburn is for red, painful, and sometimes swollen skin that is generally caused due to skin's overexposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation emitting from the sun.

The sun emits three different wavelengths of the ultraviolet light which is

1. UVA

2. UVB

3. UVC

UVC type radiations did not reach the earth's surface but UVA and UVB radiations can penetrate deep into your skin and can cause serious damage. The red, painful, and inflamed skin are the most obvious signs that you have been sitting in the sun for too long. 

The sun damage is not always visible. The extent of damage due to it depends upon the amount of exposure to the sun and also on the skin type. But the ultraviolet UV rays can prematurely age your skin, alter the DNA

It is considered as a serious risk factor for causing skin cancer. Sunburn varies from mild to severe. Also, the risk of it increases near the equator, higher the latitude, the intensity of the UV rays would be lower.

2. Causes of sunburn:

As we know that it is caused by overexposure to the sun. Ultraviolet (UVA) radiation emitting from the sun is only associated with the photoaging that is skin aging. UVB radiations are solely responsible for it, and exposure to both types of rays is directly connected with skin cancer.

Tanning beds and sun lamps also produce both UVA and UVB lights and they also can cause sunburn.

A person can also get a sunburn on a cloudy, cool, or hazy day because 80% of the UV rays can pass through the cloud. Also water, sand, snow, and other surfaces reflect UV rays which result in the burning of the skin as severely by the direct sunlight.

Facts about sunburn:

  • It is mainly caused by UV (Ultraviolet) rays emitting from the sun.
  • The first-degree sunburn can be soothed or cured by home remedies.
  • It also can cause blisters on the skin.
  • Wearing sunscreen daily helps to avoid sunburns.

Degrees of Sunburn:

  • First-Degree Burns: Mostly cause redness and mild burns due to ultraviolet rays and affect only the skin's outer layer. These are first-degree burns. Basically, these first-degree are mild and can be treated at home. The red skin might hurt on touching.
  • Second-Degree Burns: In the second-degree burns skin becomes red, blisters may appear on the skin which could be more painful. Blisters mean that nerve endings and deep skin layers have been damaged. This type takes a longer time to heal and is usually more paper.           

3. Sunburn symptoms:

As we read earlier that the damage caused by sunburns upon the skin type therefore symptoms of the sunburn vary from person to person. The early symptoms (redness of the skin) are not noticeable for several hours but the peak redness starts to appear within 12-24 hours.

Minor symptoms of it generally cause nothing more than tenderness and slight redness on the affected areas of the skin.

In serious cases, blisters on the skin may occur. Extreme cases of sunburn are painful to the point of exhaustion and hospital care may be required.

In severe cases, its symptoms include:

  • Weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills

Symptoms of shock can also occur in extreme cases:

  • Acute weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fainting

It takes less than 15 minutes for a sunburn to occur, but the harm and symptoms are often not at instance obvious.

In about 30 minutes after exposure, the skin may turn red but it generally takes 3-6 hours. After 6-48 hours pain is at the peak level and burn begins to develop for 24-72 hours, and it is sometimes followed by skin peeling in 3-8 days. Itching and peeling may continue for several weeks.

4. Home remedies for sunburn:

There are a lot of home remedies to treat it at home. Many household items can be used to stop the itching, to cool the burning and also the peeling which results from the damage caused by the sun. 

Some of the basic home remedies are:


  • Oatmeal and baking soda:

Adding a few tablespoons of baking soda in the bathtub having cold water and letting it soak for about 20 minutes helps in minimizing the damage caused by the sun. Addition of a cup of oats while bathing helps the natural moisture of the skin and also soothes the skin irritation. The skin should not be scrubbed in the bath or even after getting out. One should dab the skin with a towel to dry.

  • Aloe vera:

Aloe vera gel is the most commonly found over-the-counter product for soothing the skin damaged by sunburn. One can directly break off the plant and apply the gel to the affected areas. The gel from the aloe vera provides immediate soothing relief from minor sunburn.

If one does not have an aloe vera plant at home, he/she can use a100% aloe vera gel (not an aloe vera based ointment or lotion). 

  • Cool water:

One of the symptoms of sunburn is inflammation of the skin and the best way to treat the sunburn is to cool down the inflamed area. Dipping in water once a day is an effective way to stop the sunburn from worsening. But one should avoid dipping in swimming pools as it contains chlorinated water which can irritate the skin. 

Many of us think that applying ice to the burning area is one of the ways to soothe the skin but one should avoid applying the ice directly as it causes more damage to the hypersensitive sunburned area.

  • Chamomile tea:

Chamomile tea can be used to soothe and relax the sunburned skin. A washcloth is soaked into the brewed chamomile tea and is applied to the affected area. But if a person is allergic to the pollen, one should not use this treatment as it may cause an allergic reaction to the skin.

  • Moisturizer: 

Regularly applying the moisturizer helps to relax and soothe the skin. One should use a dye and scent-free moisturizer which is specially marketed for sensitive skin. Moisturizer helps to minimize the irritation caused by sunburn.

  • Drinking lots of water:

Drinking lots of water is the easiest way to get relief from sunburn. A person affected by it should drink at least 10 glasses of water in a day, if you are not doing so, the sunburn will automatically get you to start doing this.

  • Wearing loose clothes:

One should avoid wearing tight clothes, as they might get stuck to the skin and can irritate. As the skin is the largest organ it also needs space to breathe while healing from it. Clothes made up of cotton or bamboo, basically from natural fibers are the best post sunburn coverings.

Other ways to cure sunburn:

Pain relief:

Ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are available as over-the-counter pain reliefs that help to reduce the swelling and also relieve the pain. Some pain relieves can also be applied in the form of topical ointments.

Sunburn creams or gels:

Various creams are available at the pharmacy stores that help to treat sunburns on hands, sunburn on the face. Menthol and camphor containing ingredients help to get rid of the sunburn fast.

Also, hydrocortisone containing cream reduces the inflammation and soothes the skin.

5. Prevention for sunburn:

Minimizing the amount of time during which skin is exposed to sunlight is the best way to prevent it.

Other ways include:

  • Covering the face while going out in the sun
  • Wearing sunglasses
  • Avoid going out during the peak hours of the sun
  • Wearing a wide hat while going out in the sun
  • Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and reapply it regularly.

Choosing a sunblock/sunscreen:

There are many preparations available in the market that block UV radiation. These generally have an SPF (Sunburn protection factor) which is a sunscreen ability to subdue the sunburn. The larger the SPF value, the lower will the damage to the skin.

Many sunscreens/sunblocks offer broad-spectrum protection factor spf which means that these agents protect against both UVA and UVB radiations. 

As we know that UVB rays cause redness and sunburn. Sunscreen rated as SPF 10 will block 90% of the UVB radiations and sunblock rated SPF 20 will block around 95% of the UVB rays reaching the skin. So the best way to avoid sunburn is to wear a sunscreen with a higher SPF rate like SPF 50 gel sunscreen.

Research says that the application of a sunscreen 20-30 minutes before exposure, and reapplication after every 3-4 hours while in the sun is the best way to protect the skin from sunburns.

Stay hydrated, keep yourself cool and if the sunburn is painful, one can take ibuprofen. Always cover yourself before going out in the sun. Wear proper sunscreen with a high SPF rate to avoid sunburn. In the end, take medical advice if you are showing signs of dehydration and have a fever due to it.

Check out more about - “How to remove tan?

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