Sunburn Treatment – Ultimate Guide on Treating Sunburn Skin

In simple terms, Sunburn is overexposure to Ultraviolet rays of the sun that is a type of radiation in sunlight that can cause dark spots, red, and sometimes itchy painful skin. There are various warnings about skin damage from Sunburn can be seen, but still many people subject their skin to Sun’s harmful rays in the hope of getting beautiful golden tan skin that ultimately lead to serious sunburn skin issues. Various Home remedies for sunburn treatment are available and can be applied easily for quick relief. Treating sunburn at the early stage can help avoid many skin issues later.

Sunburn can happen within a few minutes, after exposure to the sun but the effect may be noticed for a few hours or more. Though it gets better within a few days itself that is within 5-7 days, if you feel constant pain, itching, or swelling you must take proper advice from your dermatologist for the same. 


sunburn treatment and remedies
sunburn treatment and remedies

Causes of Sunburn 

Sun burn is caused by Ultraviolet rays from the sun. Ultraviolet (UV ) rays are the type of radiation that emits from the sun and are usually stronger during summers than winters.

Long term exposure could lead to red skin with irritation however it completely depends on three factors – 

  • Type of skin 
  • Duration of exposure 
  • The intensity of rays reaching to skin 

Most of the time damage caused to the skin is visible, but sometimes it is not completely visible but it can alter DNA and can cause premature aging of the skin. In the worst cases, it can also lead to Skin Cancers. 


Symptoms of Sunburn Skin 

When sun burn occurs, skin tends to get red and if in case you have got a severe sun burn, your skin might show redness along with swelling and blisters too. 

Sometimes, sunburn symptoms also include nausea, headache, fever, and chills. 

Sun burn is self-treatable but you might need the help of your doctor if you notice more severe signs and symptoms such as fever, severe pain, blisters all around the face. Sunburn treatment is necessary even if you are not having harsh symptoms, as it affects your skin in the long term.

protect skin from sunburn
protect skin from sunburn

Skin Most Prone to Sunburn

Do some people more likely to get sunburn or skin damage from the sun?  Though everyone’s skin is prone to sun burn or tanning. But people with lighter skin are more likely to develop skin damage or sun burn from Ultraviolet rays coming from the sun. But that does not mean people with darkened skin does not get sun burn. 

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When the skin absorbs UV rays, tanning occurs. Skin tanning causes an increase in several melanocytes (cells ) that form melanin pigment. In people with dark skin tones this melanin, stops UV rays to some extent, and thus such people less likely develop sunburn however, people with lighter skin tone are more at risk of developing sunburn.

avoid these mistakes on beach side vacations
avoid these mistakes on beach side vacations

Skin Cancers 

Sun burns or tanning can also increase the risk of skin cancers but exposure to more UV rays raises the chances of skin cancer even without causing Sun to burn.

Other factors that affect or increase the risk of skin cancer other than sunburn are 

You must be careful in the sun if you –

  • Had skin cancer before 
  • Have fair skin 
  • Spend a lot of time in the sun without precautions 
  • Have autoimmune disease such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
  • Take medicines that lower immunity 
  • Have any family history of skin cancers.


avoid sunburn
avoid sunburn

Complications, If Left Untreated 

Repeated exposure to the sun not only increases the chances of tanning or sun burn but also leads to skin damage in the long run. If the sun burn is left untreated or exposure to the sun is continued it can lead to various complications.

Early aging of the skin –  Repeated sun burns or long-term exposure to the sun leads to premature aging of the skin. Premature aging results in the loosening of skin elasticity and thus making you look older. The skin may look wrinkled, rough, and dark spots might also develop on the face, arms, chest area thus leading to unhealthy looking skin.

Skin Cancer – Excessive sun exposure or excessive ultraviolet rays exposure even without sun burn increases the risk of cancer of the skin. These can occur usually on the forehead, face, neck, chest areas that are most exposed to sunlight. 

When melanoma develops, the existing mole changes, or a new mole starts developing. See your doctor once you see a new growth or new mole that does not heal for long.

Damage to Eyes – Excessive UV light damages the eyes. It may affect the retina, cornea, lens of the eye. Eyes may develop pain and can even lead to a cataract. 


sunburn skin remedies
sunburn skin remedies

Sun Tanning  

Sun tanning is the process of tanning of skin or darkening of the skin. It results from exposure to Ultraviolet rays from the sun. Sometimes people tend to tan their skin through Sunbathing. A suntan or sun burn is basically a sign that skin has been damaged by UV rays. 

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According to a few pieces of evidence, tanning also increases the risk of skin cancers 

According to dermatologists, UV light is broken down into two categories – UV –A and UV- B. Both can lead to damage to the skin and can even lead to skin cancers. It can also lead to premature aging by reducing the elasticity of the skin and breaking the skin collagen. Collagen is very important to the skin, without it the skin wrinkles and becomes papery. 

Moderate exposure to sunlight is good for the body as it contributes to the production of Vitamin D but more or excessive exposure produces negative effects including Sun burn and increased risk of cancers of the skin. 

If you want a good suntan you can think about using sunless tanning options such as lotions, gels that temporarily tan your skin. 


Diagnosis of Sunburn Skin

Sunburn that is mild in nature is self-treatable and doesn’t require medical sunburn treatment. However, if the sun burn is severe medical advice is required. 

Consult your doctor or dermatologist, as they would look upon the symptoms, history and would start the required sunburn treatment according to the condition.

moisturizer for skin , beauty tips
moisturizer for skin , beauty tips

Sunburn Treatment

It is usually self-treatable. But in some cases, it is advised to start with the sunburn treatment as soon as possible. The first and foremost way is to avoid sunburn as much as possible. However, the following sunburn treatment could help in severe cases.

  • NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines ) such as ibuprofen is advised to get relief from pain and swelling. 
  • Topical lotions or ointments are also helpful in providing relief.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and prevent the chances of dehydration.
  • Don’t pick your skin or try to break the blisters.
  • You can use a natural moisturizer such as Aloe vera gel for sunburn relief.
  • Avoid going in the sun or exposure to more UV radiation as it could make your burns or tanning worse.


Prevention of Sunburn

The best way to prevent sunburn is to minimize exposure to sunlight.

Few ways to prevent yourself are –

  • Choose shady locations to sit, eat and talk 
  • Apply sunscreen lotion regularly on your face and body parts usually exposed to the sun.
  • Protect your eyes with sunglasses.
  • Wear proper and full sleeves clothes if possible to avoid exposure of skin to the sun.
  • Avoid the sun from 10 a.m to 3 p.m as at this time the sun is brightest and there are more chances of developing sun burn if overexposure occurs.
  • You can wear a hat that shades the face, forehead, ears thus providing optimal protection to skin from burning.
  • Some medications make you more sensitive to the sun. Always be more careful and cautious while taking medications. You can always enquire from your doctor about the same.
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how to avoid sunburn and tanning
how to avoid sunburn and tanning

Home Remedies for Treating Sunburn Skin

Several home remedies could help you get rid of sunburn.

  • A cool shower or water bath relaxes and cools the sunburn skin.
  • Cool compression on sunburned skin soothes and relaxes skin.
  • You can add Lavender oil to your water while bathing to prevent redness, itching from sunburn.
  • Remember :- You must always avoid harsh soaps, perfumes on sunburned skin.
  • You can use Aloe vera gel to soothe sunburn skin. It acts as a great moisturizer for the skin.
  • Apply Vaseline on sunburned lips to keep them hydrated and moisturized.
  • Cool yogurt soothes sunburned skin and also acts as a moisturizer for the skin.
  • Mash some chilled cucumber in a blender, create a paste and apply it on sunburned skin. Cucumbers have pain-relieving properties.
  • Vitamin E is excellent for skin health. It also prevents premature aging and strengthens the collagen of the skin. A regular dose of the supplement as prescribed by a doctor and applying Vitamin E oil decreases inflammation of the skin.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.
  • Until your sunburn fades try to stay more in the shade and avoid going in the sun. Exposure to more sunlight only makes things worse. 


treating sunburn skin with home remedies
treating sunburn skin with home remedies

Final Thoughts

It is important to recognise whether the burn can be treated at home or need medical attention and advice. Proper protection of skin with sunscreen, clothes could prevent the burning of the skin. Try treating sunburn skin as soon as you notice it. Early sunburn treatment is important for your skin health and glow.

Dr Jyotsana Anand
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