What You Need To Know About Sunburns
Sunburn is a nasty beast that inevitably rears its head every Summer. We know that it hurts — a lot — and we know that it makes us look like lobsters. . . But did you know exactly how long it takes to burn (you might be surprised), what is actually happening to your skin (it’s pretty remarkable) and how you can treat it? There’s also a lot to know about other side effects of sunburn — and wait until you read how much a sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer. Click through to find out, and take care this Summer!
1. Take out the word sun – you’ve actually got burnt skin
It’s not something to take lightly; sunburnt skin means your epidermis has been so affected by the sun that it’s literally singed.
Sunburn as we know it is a visual reaction to the sun’s ultraviolet rays; the rays kill living cells underneath the top layer of your epidermis. Your immune system speeds up the blood flow to send white blood cells in, which then try and repair the damage – the increased blood flow is where the hallmark redness comes from.
2. The worst is still to come
You may think you’ve escaped with only some minor colouring, but unfortunately sunburn reaches its peak approximately 12 hours after the actual burning takes place, and develops (ie, gets worse) for another 12 or so. You can expect the pain and redness to be dramatically reduced 72 hours after the fact.
It’s also important to note that it takes just 15 minutes of time spent in the sun to get burned – it was previously thought to be at least one hour.
3. It’s not just about redness and that painful sting…
While those symptoms are the most common and obvious, sunburn can also leads to some unwelcome side effects. You may experience:
- Swollen skin
- Blisters that tend to bleed and can easily catch infection
- Hot fevers
- Cold chills
- Severe pain associated with being burned
- Weakness and fatigue
- Dry and damaged skin in the aftermath
4. There’s no quick fix
While there’s no way to make the burn disappear completely, or undo the damage, there are some very simple ways to ease the pain temporarily.
Aloe Vera gel is your very best friend, followed closely by a designated after-sun cooling spray. Both products are readily available at chemists, and will make the next 72 hours of your life that much more bearable.
Using a very soft cloth, you can wipe over your burns with cold milk or a sensitive-skin moisturiser that’s been popped in the fridge, spritz with water or press with a cool (not icy-cold) compress. You can also take anti-inflammatory medication like Nurofen, as recommended.
Whatever you do, don’t use oily substances to self-medicate – the oil seals the skin and traps the heat in, which will only intensify the pain.
5. It’s easier than ever to prevent
With the arrival on spray-on sunscreen and SPF50+, there’s no excuse to not cover up. Make sure you choose water-resistant/proof variations, and the best you can buy is a sun-cream that blocks out UVB and UVA rays. You need to apply at least two tablespoons of cream half an hour before you get exposed to the sun, and then reapply with the same amount every two hours. Five or more sunburns double your chance of developing skin cancer – we think spending 10 minutes protecting yourself is worth it!
Remember: Sunscreens can expire (often surprisingly quickly), so check the dates before you purchase or apply.