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The Best Ways To Prevent And Treat Sunburn

The Best Ways To Prevent And Treat Sunburn



unburn occurs when the skin is overexposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources like tanning beds. UV radiation damages the DNA in skin cells, leading to inflammation, redness, pain, and sometimes blistering or peeling of the skin. Sunburn typically occurs within a few hours of exposure and can range from mild to severe, depending on factors such as skin type, duration of exposure, and degree of UV radiation.

Long-term sun exposure and repeated sunburns increase the risk of skin cancer and premature aging of the skin. Protecting the skin with sunscreen, protective clothing, and seeking shade can help prevent sunburn. Ultimately, prevention is better than cure. Unless necessary, avoid the sun at all costs. But if you have sunburn, it’s still not a dead end, as there are ways to fix it.

What are the causes of sunburn?

To treat sunburn, understanding the underlying cause helps. Here are some of the common causes of sunburn:

  • Spending too much time in direct sunlight without protection exposes the skin to UV radiation, which can lead to sunburn. UV radiation is most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., particularly during the warmer months and at high altitudes.
  • Surfaces like water, sand, snow, and concrete can reflect UV radiation, increasing the risk of sunburn, even in shaded areas.
  • Failure to use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, or seek shade can leave the skin vulnerable to UV damage and sunburn.
  • People with fair skin, light hair, and blue or green eyes are more susceptible to sunburn due to lower levels of melanin, the pigment that provides some natural protection against UV radiation.
  • Certain medications, such as antibiotics, acne treatments, and some perfumes, can increase sensitivity to UV radiation and heighten the risk of sunburn.
  • The closer you are to the equator, the stronger the sun’s UV radiation is, thereby increasing the risk of sunburn. This is because UV radiation increases with altitude. Simply put, sunburn is more common at higher elevations.
  • Also, sunburn is more common in the summer months when the sun’s rays are stronger and people spend more time outdoors. However, sunburn can occur in any season if UV radiation levels are high.
  • Individuals may be genetically predisposed to sunburn due to variations in their DNA repair mechanisms or melanin production.

How to prevent sunburn 

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  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, and reapply every two hours or more frequently if swimming or sweating.
  • Limit direct sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when UV radiation is strongest.
  • Cover exposed skin with lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, pants, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Consider using umbrellas, canopies, or tents for additional shade when outdoors.
  • Be cautious around surfaces like water, sand, snow, and concrete, which can reflect UV radiation and increase the risk of sunburn.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially when spending time outdoors in the sun.
  • Be aware of the UV index in your area and plan outdoor activities accordingly. Aim to spend time outdoors when UV levels are lower, such as early in the morning, or late in the afternoon.
  • Keep infants under six months out of direct sunlight, and use sunscreen, protective clothing, and shade for older children.
  • UV radiation from tanning beds can cause sunburn and increase the risk of skin cancer. Opt for safer alternatives like self-tanners or spray tans.
  • Some medications to treat sunburn can increase sensitivity to UV radiation, so consult your healthcare provider about potential side effects and take appropriate precautions when outdoors.

How to Treat: Natural remedies for sunburn

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  • Aloe vera gel is well-known for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. Apply aloe vera gel directly to sunburned areas to help reduce redness, inflammation, and discomfort.
  • Soak a clean cloth in cool water and apply it gently to sunburned skin to help alleviate pain and heat. You can also add a few drops of chamomile or lavender essential oil to the water for added soothing benefits.
  • Adding colloidal oatmeal to a lukewarm bath can help soothe sunburned skin and relieve itching. Soak in the oatmeal bath for 15-20 minutes to help calm inflammation and promote healing.
  • Coconut oil contains fatty acids that help moisturize and nourish sunburned skin. Apply a thin layer of coconut oil to affected areas to help hydrate the skin and reduce peeling.
  • Cucumber slices have cooling and hydrating properties that can help soothe sunburned skin. Place chilled cucumber slices directly on sunburned areas for instant relief.
  • Brew a strong cup of green tea, allow it to cool, and apply it to sunburned skin using a clean cloth or cotton pad. Green tea contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce redness and inflammation.
  • Honey has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help promote healing and reduce discomfort from sunburn. Apply a thin layer of honey to sunburned skin and leave it on for 15-20 minutes before rinsing off with cool water.
  • Mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar and water, and apply the solution to sunburned skin using a cotton ball or spray bottle. Vinegar can help balance the skin’s pH and reduce inflammation.

To treat sunburn, discontinue the use of any product if you experience any irritation or adverse reactions. If your sunburn is severe or accompanied by symptoms like fever or blistering, seek medical attention.

Featured image: viperagp/iStock

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