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Last Updated: Oct 04, 2019
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Sunburn - Causes, Symptoms, Treatments And Home Remedies

What is Sunburn? What are the signs and symptoms of a sunburn? What causes sunburn? How to diagnose a sunburn? What is the best treatment for sunburn? Do sunburns turn into a tan? How long does it take for a sunburn to heal? What are the preventive measures from sunburn? What are the home remedies for sunburn?

What is Sunburn?

Skin is the largest organ in the body, exposed to the rays of the sun. The ultraviolet rays of the sun penetrate through the skin and help in the formation of melanin in skin. Melanin is the pigment that gives the dark tan to skin. The higher melanin amount in the body leads to darker skin. Exposure to the sun’s radiation also helps in the formation of vitamin D and warmth to the body.

When the body exposed to too much ultraviolet rays, it causes a condition called sunburn. Burn due to ultraviolet rays is also caused when the body gets exposed to other sources of ultraviolet rays like phototherapy lamps, arc lamps and tanning beds.

Almost people of all ages, race and sex can get them. The condition is prevalent during all seasons, even in winters when the radiation of the sun is low. People living towards the equator or at higher altitudes are at higher risk of suffering from the condition.

Lighter skinned people are at more risk than dark-skinned counterparts. Mild first-degree burns are caused due to sunburns. When the condition is serious, there may be dehydration, second-degree burns and infection. It results from exposure to the sun due to excessive outdoor activity. The ultraviolet rays can pass through the clothes and reach the skin. They can even reach the skin when the clothes are wet.

What are the signs and symptoms of a sunburn?

Sunburn is redness and pain in the skin. Usually, it appears when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays or artificial lights such as sunlamps for a longer period of time. The signs of sunburn include:

  • Pinkness or redness on the skin
  • Pain, itching, and gentleness
  • Swelling
  • Fluid blisters of small size
  • Headache, fever, nausea, and fatigue

The signs are seen after the few hours of exposure to the sun, but it takes a few days in which all the symptoms of sunburn are seen. If body parts like earlobes, lips, scalp and even the areas covered under the clothes are exposed to sun, it allows ultraviolet rays to penetrate through them, leading to skin burn.

Sunburn will increase symptoms of disease like herpes, eczema, dermatitis, and erythematosus. Severity can also cause melanoma, skin cancer, premature ageing, wrinkling of skin, dehydration, exhaustion and heatstroke.

What causes sunburn?

Ultraviolet solar radiation associated with skin ageing or photoaging related to ultraviolet B causes skinburn. If the skin is exposed too much under the sun then there are chances of sunburn.

How to diagnose a sunburn?

Physical examinations are conducted by the doctor and some of the questions are asked about if there is any medical history regarding sunburn. If a person develops it by spending too much time in the sunlight, then he/she is asked to have a photo testing.

In this test, a small patch of the patient’s skin is exposed to the limited amount of UVA and UVB light. If the skin reacts to UV rays, then the skin is considered sun-sensitive.

What is the best treatment for sunburn?

If a person is sunburned, it takes almost 2 weeks to get rid of it. The treatment only gives relief to the skin but the skin is not healed. During the treatment, relief is offered by reducing pain, swelling, and discomfort.

These are some of the best sunburn treatments:

  • Hydrocortisone cream: It helps to reduce itching.
  • Cold Showers: Taking cold baths or shower will help in relieving the pain.
  • Aloe Vera moisturiser: A moisturizer containing aloe vera can be used on the peeling skin.
  • Rehydrate: Drinking extra water also helps to reduce the impact.

The condition is not life-threatening, however, it can cause a lot of pain. First aid is given to patients who suffer from mild sunburn. When it is severe, doctors will prescribe steroidal drugs that can relieve pain and inflammation. Hospitalisation of patients is necessary when the symptoms are severe. There is also homoeopathy treatment for photodamaged skin and also Ayurveda treatment for sunburn.

Do sunburns turn into a tan?

Mild sunburn lasts for 3 days whereas moderate sunburn lasts for approx 5 days which comes along with skin peeling. If skin rashes are severe, it can last for more number of days and the person who is affected needs to go to the doctor.

When the skin is very much exposed to the sun or UV rays, the melanin gets active and protects the skin from being damaged. Due to which the skin of people becomes dark in color. Thus, if the skin is very much exposed to sunlight during sunburn, then it can even turn into a tan.

How long does it take for a sunburn to heal?

Sunburn is harmful to the skin and should be treated in the right manner so that it can be healed properly. If the conditions are serious, then there can be some risk factors involved in it. Thus, it is very important for the person to protect your skin from the UV rays.

What are the preventive measures from sunburn?

Prevention is possible by not exposing oneself to the harmful sun radiations, using sunscreens while venturing outside and wearing caps and sunglasses. All these preventive measures can help a person to avoid sunburn and also prevent further episodes if you have suffered from one in the past. These are the preventive measures for sunburn relief:

  • Avoid going out in the sun during peak hours 10 AM - 4 PM
  • Wear clothes which help to protect your skin from the UV rays or helps to block it
  • Sunglasses with UV protection must be worn
  • Apply sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher and reapply it within every 2 hours
  • Avoid going out on the hotter days

What are the home remedies for sunburn?

Some of the sunburn home remedies to get rid of sunburn are:

  • Taking pain relievers
  • Keeping the skin cool
  • Applying oil, lotion, or gel
  • Prevent dehydration
  • Do not touch small blister
  • Treat peeling skin gently
  • Coconut oil is the best for sunburn

Popular Questions & Answers

I have pimple marks whenever I have period pimple appears but marks are left .my skin is also uneven due to sun tan and I wanted to know whether retinol cream will help me to remove scar and it is good for anti aging skin care my age is 26.

MBBS, Residency in Dermatology
Dermatologist, Gurgaon
Plz don't try to prick or disturb acne healing process. Retinol cream is gud and works well for acne skin and pigmented acne marks. But not the pitted scars. But use it in night only and in day time regular use of sunscreen is mandatory.

Hi my question is for dermatologists. Can I use cetaphil moisturizer cream under sunban forte spf50+ cream. Can I use the combination as I was reusing sunban from so long due to rosacea. Kindly promote your a serve soon. My skin is very sensitive skin with the normal type.

MD - Dermatology , Venereology & Leprosy
Dermatologist, Ahmedabad
Ya you can apply moisturiser first and then apply sunscreen on it. You can keep moisturiser for 15 min to let it absorb and then you can apply sunscreen on it. You must be applying medicines for rosacea. Good matte finish physical sunscreen can be...

How to remove tan from my forehead? I have used many facewash having salicylic acid. Yet nothing changed. Kindly tell me how I can lessen my tan?

MBBS, MD - Dermatology
Dermatologist, Delhi
Sun avoidance and use of sunscreen is must to treat and prevent tan. For detanning treatment please consult me privately for prescription.

My question is regarding my son's skin colour (complexion). I am his mother. He is 16 years old. He has tanned brownish skin. His arms, legs and cheeks are especially darker probably because they are exposed though I forcibly make him wear full pants and no sleeveless t-shirts. I have also applied sunscreen on him. Still it didn't work. It was the sport's day when he had to wear sleeveless t-shirts and shorts. When he fell, it looked awful to see his brown legs mixed with the dust. When his fair friend picked him by his arm, it appeared a good contrast of their complexions. Moreover, he was the darkest boy out there in the race. Every day he comes from school, he has one shade at least darker by suntan. Last time when I had beaten him up, I slapped his cheeks to find alternate red and brown marks left. I am much fairer than him. A month ago, I was advised to give him glutathione injection, so I told him about it. The previous day, he denied his dark tanned skin and that made me furious. There were other reasons too. I had beaten him up so that he cried. He was wearing only an underwear. I took out my wooden stick and started beating him mercilessly. He screamed in pain. I kicked his legs and arms and slapped his cheeks several times till my fingerprints became prominent. I beat him with the stick so hard that it broke away. Some marks were seen on his back. Then I calmed down when he finally agreed. How ever, the next day just an hour before getting dressed up, he refused to go. I got extremely angry. He had to face another terrible beating from me. He was wearing the underwear. I smacked him and he fell. He shouted. I beat him by his legs and kicked him. I threw him on the ground and I noticed his complexion structure. He was in the underwear so it was easy. He lied flat on the ground. His buttons and anal region was so dark almost black. I even took a photo of him in that position for showing it to the doctor. Even wearing the underwear, that area was visibly much darker. The extension was so much that even the back of his thighs became dark chocolaty brown. I finally told him to agree patiently but he didn't. He refused to wear even the dress. After giving him few low painful burns after which he cried out, he still didn't agree. I caught him by his arm and made him wear just a sleeveless t-shirt and went to the doctor. He was just in a sleeveless t-shirt and underwear. The doctor was surprised but gave him the injection. After that at home he shouted at me for giving him the injection. I had to beat him very hard till he kept quiet. He somersaulted by my beatings. I locked him up in the bathroom. When later I opened it, I saw him sitting on the bathroom pan with his legs and arms folded. Oh how tanned he looked also he still shouted. After giving him burns with boiling water he pacified. After that, almost every day he received beatings from me for some reason. Please suggest a method for making his complexion fair.

MBBS, MD - Dermatology
Dermatologist, Delhi
please stop torturing him first. tanning is a temporary problem and shall go once he understands the reason being sun exposure.
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