Sunburn is skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun.
The symptoms of sunburn will appear within a couple of hours of sun exposure, however the full effects may take 24 hours to appear.
Long-term damage can take years to appear and includes the risk of skin cancers, as UV light is a carcinogen.
There are varying degrees of sunburn and each take a different length of time to heal and return to normal.
A mild burn will be accompanied with redness, some pain and sensitivity in the effected area, and this type of burn can last from three to five days.
There may be some peeling of the skin in the last couple of days as the skin heals and repairs itself, and sheds the dead skin.
Moderate sunburns will be more painful, the skin will not only be red but also swollen and the area will feel hot.
This degree of burn will take about a week to heal completely with the skin continuing to peel afterwards for a few days.
Severe sunburn may require a visit to the doctor or hospital.
This kind of burn will involve blistering and very red skin, taking two weeks to recover completely, if you don’t end up in the hospital some much needed respite will be mandatory to recover from the burn.
However these are not catch-all categories and everyone’s skin reacts differently to the sun.
Some people are more susceptible to sunburn.
These people are at a higher risk of severe sunburn
- Fair or light skinned people
- People with freckles or red or fair hair
- If you go outside between 10 am and 3 pm (when the sun’s rays are most intense)
- If you’re at high altitudes at the time of the sun exposure
- People under ozone holes
- If you are living or visiting places near the equator
- People who use tanning beds
- If you are taking certain drugs that make you more susceptible to burns (photo-sensitising medications)
Don’t think because you’re not going around like a cherry that you’re not getting burned.
Typically redness caused by sunburn will take about two to six hours to show up after you got the burn.
The redness will peak 24 hours after the sun exposure and will decrease after that.
The pain associated with sunburn starts within six hours and peaks around 24 hours, subsiding after 48 hours.
If you are severely burned, swelling may take up to two days to quell however taking anti-inflammatory drugs, or using corticosteroid cream will reduce the swelling.
Blisters will show up if your burn is more serious between six and 24 hours after UV exposure but sometimes will take a couple of days to show up on the skin, and could persist for up to a week.
Do not break the blisters, as they are providing protection to the skin healing itself, breaking them will slow down the process, and increases your risk of infection.
If the blisters happen to break on their own, then wash the area with mild soap and water and cover the area with wet dressing, and keep them out of the sun.
Peeling is a common feature of the aftermath of getting a vicious burn, and you will start to peel about three days after you contracted the burn.
Once the peeling process starts, it can last for several days and will stop when the skin is fully healed, for a mild to moderate burn that should be within seven days, but peeling can carry on for several weeks.
Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water to help heal the skin.
Don’t exfoliate or pull at the skin – it will shed by itself.
Try to moisturise and use a basic moisturiser, taking a warm bath can loosen the dead cells.
A sunburn rash can also develop within six hours of sun exposure and may last for up to three days depending on the burn severity.
Apply cool compresses and lather on Aloe Vera to help soothe and heal.
The damage caused by sunburn is in your skin and DNA and is permanent, even if the symptoms like the redness go away.
It only takes ones bad sunburn to make an impact.
Long-terms effects include premature ageing, wrinkles, sun spots, and skin cancer.
Sunburn is one of the most preventable causes of cancer.
The damage to be suffered from sunburn does not discriminate between hue of skin as it can effect anyone of any colour.