How to Avoid Sunburn

Sunburn is a painful skin reaction to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It typically occurs within a few hours of exposure and is at its worst 6 to 48 hours afterward.


Use a moisturizing lotion — such as plain calamine or an aloe vera gel that doesn’t contain alcohol — and take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen. Drink plenty of water to help prevent dehydration.

Avoiding Sunburn

Sunburn isn’t just red and painful, it also increases your risk for skin cancer. That’s why it is important to take steps to avoid sunburn. Sunscreen is one of the best tools for protecting against UV radiation. The sunscreen you choose should have a broad spectrum and be applied evenly before going outside. Clothing made of tight-woven fabrics can also help reduce sun exposure. Staying in the shade is another simple and effective solution. Coolibar has a great selection of outdoor products that make staying in the shade easy.

If you do get a sunburn, it is very important to avoid the sun until your skin has fully healed. Going back out in the sun while your skin is still burning can increase your chance of developing more severe symptoms, like blisters, a rash or fever. If you develop blisters, put dry bandages on them to reduce the risk of infection. It is also important to drink plenty of water, since dehydration can contribute to the severity of sunburn.

Most people who are sunburned did not apply enough sunscreen or didn’t reapply it frequently. You should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply it every two hours, especially when swimming or sweating. You should also consider wearing clothing that will protect against UV radiation, such as hats, sunglasses and long-sleeved shirts, as well as using sun-protective lip balm.

Treating Sunburn

Sunburn causes inflammation, which makes the skin red and swell. This is your body’s way of trying to protect itself. It also sends immune cells to repair DNA damage in the skin cell. Over time, the damaged skin cells die and are replaced with new ones.

Generally, mild sunburn heals on its own within a few days to a week. More severe burns take longer to heal. If you have a second- or third-degree sunburn, call your doctor right away.

Cool, damp cloths can help ease pain and swelling. Soothing creams and gels, such as aloe vera, can ease dryness. You can also use hydrocortisone cream, available without a prescription, to soothe painful sunburn. You can also take an over-the-counter NSAID, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, to reduce redness, swelling and pain. But don’t give aspirin to children or teenagers — it may increase their risk for Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious disease.

Don’t pick at blisters, and don’t rip off any peeling skin. Blistering and peeling is your body’s natural way of getting rid of dead, sunburned skin. It’s important to keep the skin moist and soft with ointments or moisturizers. And be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially if your sunburn is severe or causes itching.

Symptoms of Sunburn

Sunburn is the body’s reaction to too much UV exposure. It results in the skin changing to a reddish-brown color, often with swelling and discomfort. A sunburn also damages DNA in the skin cells, which raises the risk of skin cancer.

The first sign of sunburn is usually redness, which can range from a mild pink to deep red. In some cases, the skin will begin to swell and blister. If a severe sunburn develops, systemic symptoms such as fever, chills or nausea may occur.

A light sunburn is often accompanied by itching, which increases when the irritated skin sheds and flakes off on its own. If you have a darker skin tone, you may experience this symptom less pronounced.

Depending on the severity of your burn, it will take from a few days to a few weeks for the damaged skin to heal. During this time, you should stay out of the sun because additional exposure will only make your burn worse. Try taking a cool shower or bath and use aloe gel to help soothe your skin. You can also apply a over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to ease the pain and itching.

Avoid products that contain numbing agents like benzocaine, which can cause an allergic reaction. Drink plenty of water to rehydrate the skin and prevent dehydration. If the pain gets too bad, you can take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (children should not receive aspirin because of the danger of Reye syndrome).

Sunburn Complications

Sunburn is caused by the sun’s UV rays or from artificial sources such as tanning beds. It is a form of radiation burn to the skin that results in redness and itching. Sunburn is very common and most people get it at some point in their lives. Excessive sun exposure and frequent sunburn increases the risk of skin cancer and wrinkling of the skin.

The first signs of sunburn are usually skin that looks flushed and is tender or painful, and it can take up to 48 hours for the full effects of a sunburn to appear. The redness of a sunburn will continue to develop for a few days, as the skin starts to peel. This is the body’s way of getting rid of damaged and dead skin cells. Some sunburns cause pain that can be relieved with over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen.

Occasionally, severe sunburns can lead to fluid loss and electrolyte imbalance and patients may need to be admitted to hospital for intravenous rehydration with lactated Ringer’s solution. More seriously, some patients with blistering sunburns can go into shock. If you notice symptoms of a severe sunburn, seek medical attention immediately. Severe sunburns increase your risk of developing melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, later in life.