How to Avoid Sunburn

Sunburn is a painful skin reaction caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. It stops accurate DNA replication and triggers the body to send immune cells to repair the damage, causing redness, itching and swelling.


Be sure to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, and a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Consider using a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to reduce pain and inflammation.

Avoiding Sunburn

Sunburn is the result of overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The UV rays penetrate deep into the skin, damaging cells and causing inflammation. Excessive sunburn can cause long-term skin damage and increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

It is important to understand how to prevent sunburn, especially during summer when people spend more time outdoors and are exposed to the sun’s harmful rays. Avoiding direct sunlight is a simple and effective way to minimize sunburn. If possible, stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. When this is not feasible, a good sunscreen can be very helpful. Coolibar has a wide range of sun protection options to help you stay protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Using clothing with UV protection and wearing hats that offer shade are additional ways to prevent sunburn. It is also a good idea to drink lots of water, as sunburn can lead to dehydration.

Occasional mild sunburns can be treated with aloe or other soothing ointments. However, frequent overexposure to the sun causes premature aging of the skin and increases the risk of developing skin cancer. If you are concerned about the amount of sun exposure you receive, visit a dermatologist for a professional skin exam. The healthcare provider will ask you about your past sunburns and your skin history, as well as your family’s sunburn history. They may also recommend a skin self-exam to screen for potential problems.

Symptoms of Sunburn

The good news is that sunburn symptoms usually disappear in a few days. The bad news is that the DNA damage caused by UV rays is permanent and increases your risk of skin cancer. Moreover, each time you get a sunburn, it makes your skin more sensitive to the sun and more susceptible to other types of long-term injury and disease.

Symptoms of mild sunburn include redness and swelling of the skin, which vary in color from light pink to deep red, depending on how much UV exposure you had and your skin type. Blistering is common in darker skin, and itching may occur. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (see your doctor before giving children aspirin), helps to relieve the discomfort and may speed healing. Applying a moisturizing cream, such as one that contains vitamin C and E, can help limit damage to your skin cells.

If your sunburn is severe, you might experience systemic symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting and dehydration. If you notice that your skin is starting to peel, don’t try to remove it with sandpaper or other abrasive items because you might injure your healthy skin underneath. Rather, let it shed naturally over the course of a few days. If your skin blisters, cover them with loose cotton dressings, avoiding salves or other products that can hold heat or moisture in and block sweat and blood flow, which could cause infection.

Treatments for Sunburn

The most effective treatment for sunburn is staying out of the sun and hydrating your skin. A good moisturizer, such as one that contains aloe vera or soy, can help rehydrate the burnt layers of your skin and soothe them. Make sure the moisturizer is free of perfumes and other additives that can irritate your skin. Try a light lotion, rather than a thick cream, since it may trap in heat and cause more irritation.

A cool bath or shower is also an easy way to hydrate your sunburned skin. Just don’t use soap, which can dry out your skin, and avoid rubbing the burned areas — this can lead to redness, swelling and even blisters.

If you experience a painful or blistering sunburn, take an over-the-counter pain reliever to help ease the discomfort. You can also apply a hydrocortisone cream, available without prescription. Just don’t use products that contain benzocaine, which can irritate your skin and increase your sensitivity to sunlight.

Most first-degree sunburns heal on their own in a few days to a week, but they can leave behind discolored spots and red veins that can be unsightly. More serious second-degree burns can lead to scarring and require medical attention. And more than two blistering sunburns at any age can double your risk for developing melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer.

Preventing Sunburn

Sunburn is not just annoying, it increases your risk of skin cancer, wrinkles, freckles and dark spots on the skin. It also can cause pain and swelling. It can be prevented by avoiding the sun and using sunscreen. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher should be used and reapplied frequently, especially after swimming or sweating. Clothing that covers the skin is also helpful. Some types of clothing have built-in sun protection, and you can buy fabric that blocks UV rays.

Even a single sunburn can increase your risk for skin cancer, because the UV rays from sunlight cause more than just redness in the outer layers of your skin — they actually damage DNA in the deeper skin cells. Certain medications may make you more susceptible to sunburn, including tetracyclines (especially doxycycline), thiazide diuretics, sulfonamides and fluoroquinolones.

After a sunburn, it is important to drink plenty of water. If your sunburn is painful, you can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help relieve the discomfort. It is also a good idea to use moisturizers that contain vitamins C and E. You can also get these vitamins through a healthy diet. It is common for sunburned skin to peel after a while, which is your body’s way of getting rid of damaged skin cells.