While some of us are more susceptible to them than others, when it comes to sunburns, no one’s immune. That’s why this edition of Safe Summer Tips is all about keeping your skin safe while you’re enjoying your summer fun!
What’s Happening When You Get a Sunburn
You know you get a sunburn from being out in the sun without any skin protection, but what exactly is going on to cause it? Well, believe it or not, sunburn is actually a radiation burn caused by an overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This means you’re getting burned from the UV rays, which can penetrate cloud cover. So even when it’s overcast, you can get a sunburn.
Like other types of burn, sunburn ranges from third- to first-degree burns. Depending on the intensity of the burn, you can experience anything from slight redness and tenderness to blistering to needing hospitalization. Other sunburn symptoms can include itching, skin peeling, nausea, fever, general fatigue, and mild dizziness.
As if the idea of a radiation burn weren’t enough to send you straight to the sunblock aisle, consider this: with every sunburn you get, you increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Eek, scary right?! So when it comes to sunburn prevention, just remember your ABC’s:
Needless to say, avoiding the sun is the easiest way to avoid a sunburn. But, it being summertime, a lot of our favorite activities take place outdoors!
As you can, try to stay out of the midday sun (when the UV rays are strongest), or from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Try to find shade if you’re outside during these hours to avoid direct exposure.
Sunblock is your #1 defense against the sun’s rays, whether or not you’re in direct sunlight.
Be sure the brand you buy is FDA-approved and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
We know it’s hot, but if you can, wear clothes that cover your skin to protect it from being exposed.
Top it off with a hat and some UV-protection sunglasses because even your eyes can get sun damage!
Most sunburns will go away on their own, with only really severe ones requiring licensed medical attention. But the symptoms can be quite a pill to deal with. So here are a few natural and at-home remedies to soothe that burn:
Draw a bath – but make sure it’s the right kind.
Ditch the soap (which can dry and irritate skin) and keep the water cool.
Mix in some baking soda, which has been shown to relieve inflammation and itching. Plan to air-dry if you do, though, since it works best when it dries on the skin.
A cup of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar are other soothers that can be added to a bath to help sunburn.
After you’ve rinsed, apply a moisturizing cream or lotion, preferably a calming one, like Eucerin.
For added relief, chill your moisturizer in the fridge while you bathe.
Cool off the burn.
Grab an ice pack or some frozen peas, but make sure to wrap them in a damp cloth before placing on your burn.
This helps absorb heat from your skin, constrict blood vessels, and reduce swelling.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Drinking water will help counteract the sunburn drying out your skin, causing itching and peeling.
You can also eat your water! Grab a piece of watermelon (which can have as much as 9 oz of water in it!) or some honeydew or cantaloupe and chow down.
Try a little aloe.
Medical evidence is pointing more and more to aloe vera as being a healer of wounds.
If you have an aloe plant, break a piece off and apply the juice to your sunburn.
If you don’t have a plant, aloe vera gel is a great substitute and can be found in most drug stores and pharmacies. Just make sure to get one that doesn’t have any alcohol or added colors or fragrances which can irritate the skin further.
The risk of sunburn is no reason to avoid the sun, especially if you remember to protect your skin and immediately work to relieve any burns that crop up. So get out there, have fun this summer, and stay safe!
Kat Wiseman is a content writer for Span Enterprises in Rock Hill, SC. She has a B.A. in English-Creative Writing from Winthrop University and her RYT 200 from Yoga Alliance. When she's not writing or doing yoga, she enjoys Netflix marathons, mystery novels, and being at the beach.