What is sunburn?
This is a problem that most of us have seen or experienced at some time. Severe sun exposure causes the skin to turn bright red, swell, and sometimes blister. It is a skin reaction to UV radiation, which can be caused by tanning beds, tanning lamps, or natural sunlight. UV rays also exacerbate the aging process, and increase your risk of skin cancer.
What causes sunburn?
Exposure to UVA and UVB radiation causes your skin to produce extra melanin, which is the component that naturally gives skin its coloring. The body uses this melanin as a protective barrier, attempting to block the harmful light. The resulting darkened skin is called a suntan. However, depending on your skin type and the amount of sun exposure, this tan is often insufficient to protect the skin, and a deep burn ensues.
Individuals with very fair skin are more susceptible to sunburn. UV rays can penetrate clouds, and reflect off of water, sand, ice, or snow making sunburn possible under a wide variety of conditions.
Symptoms of sunburn
You will probably not realize you are being burned at the time, but symptoms begin developing within hours. It may take a few days for the symptoms to develop fully. Common signs include:
- Skin feels warm to the touch.
- The exposed area is red or pink, swollen, and painful.
- If the burn was deep, the area will blister.
- If a large area was burned, you may experience fatigue, headache, or both.
You can avoid this painful condition by being smart about sun exposure and protection. Sun safety is also important for cancer prevention, as well as protecting the youthful appearance of your skin. Be sure that you:
- Wear protective clothing that covers your skin.
- Look for a sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30, that is labeled broad-spectrum.
- Use sunscreen frequently, in adequate amounts.
- Avoid sun exposure during peak hours, around 10:00 in the morning until 2:00 in the afternoon.
- Wear sunglasses with UV protection
The damage to your skin cannot be reversed, although treatment can relieve the pain. The most effective therapy is usually moisturizers, aloe vera lotions, over the counter pain relievers, and taking cool baths. If the sunburn is severe, your doctor may prescribe an NSAID (anti-inflammatory drugs) medication to improve your comfort and hasten the healing process.
Call Dr. W Dermatology (281) 771-0494 to schedule an appointment at our Houston location.