It may feel great to go out in the sun when it’s warm outside, but sun exposure can have harmful effects on your skin and your health if you’re not careful. Contrary to what many people believe, you don’t have to lie out and tan for hours in order to get sunburn. It’s important to understand the possible effects of sun exposure in order to prevent sunburn and other potential health risks.
Sun exposure occurs any time that your skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. UV rays are actually an invisible form of radiation. When your skin is damaged by exposure to these rays, you get sunburned. Sunburn is more dangerous than it looks – in fact, sunburn occurs where UV rays have killed or damaged skin cells.
There are several signs and symptoms associated with sunburn. The following symptoms usually appear within a few hours of sun exposure and last for a few days:
Even though the symptoms might start appearing soon after you’ve been in the sun, they may continue to worsen for up to a day or two afterwards. Once the sunburn starts to heal, the top layer of sun damaged skin usually starts to peel off. This sometimes leaves irregular, mottled colors on the layers skin underneath.
Sun exposure is caused by the skin being exposed to UV light, either from sunlight or commercial tanning lamps. Sunburn is caused by too much exposure to UV rays, which leads to dead or damaged skin cells. The UV light accelerates the skin’s production of melanin, which leads to the darker pigment, which most people know as “tanned” skin. The tan skin is actually a defense mechanism produced by the body to help protect the skin from further damage due to sun exposure.
There are certain risk factors that increase an individual’s likelihood of getting sun damaged skin, including:
Take the following steps to help prevent sun damaged skin:
One of the common misconceptions when sun damaged skin is that it only occurs in warm, sunny weather. On the contrary, sunburns can happen even in cold, snowy or cloudy weather as well. In fact, many people are more likely to get sunburn in these weather conditions because they are less likely to take steps to prevent sunburn, such as putting on sunscreen.
Also, remember that snow, ice, water, sand and other reflective surfaces can also exposure your skin to UV rays. In some cases, the sun damage from these sources can be just as severe as that from direct sunlight. Take steps to prevent sun damaged skin in these conditions.
Sunburns can usually be treated at home. Using oral and/or topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help to reduce swelling, pain and inflammation. In addition, topical corticosteroids can help relieve itching that often occurs while the skin is in the healing process.
(For more ways to treat sunburn, check out 5 Great Home Remedies For Sunburn.)
There are rare cases in which sunburn is so severe that it requires immediate medical attention. See a doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms with your sunburn:
Keep in mind that sun damaged skin can have serious effects in the long-term. In addition to an increased aging process, rough, scaly skin and eye damage, sunburns can cause skin cancer. It’s important to monitor your skin for any suspicious looking sunburns, color patterns or moles and to see a dermatologist if you find any.