Summer comes with all sorts of outdoor activities and preferably less clothing. Staying indoors during summer doesn’t feel so right, yeah? Unfortunately, summer activities are all fun and games until you get sunburns. The sun is a perfect source of Vitamin D, but the scorching sun can be harmful to the extent that it may cause pain and increase the risk of wrinkles, dark spots and even skin cancer.
In this article, you shall get to know the different modes of protecting your skin from sun damage and also other natural sunburn remedies.
Sunburn is a skin burn resulting from too much exposure to UV rays from sunlight or other sources such as sunlamps. When ultraviolet radiation from the scorching sun hits the skin, it damages skin cells and causes mutations in their DNA. These changes may eventually expose the skin to cancer.
The body usually has its way of preventing and even correcting these mutations. However, excessive exposure to UV rays can be too much for it to handle, thereby causing harm to the skin cells.
Sunburn can affect anybody, but its symptoms vary according to skin shade. Those with lighter skin shades are more susceptible to sun damage within 15 minutes of sun exposure because they are less likely to produce melanin. At the same time, people with dark skin tones can tolerate skin exposure for hours without ending up with a sunburn.
What are the different types of sun damage?
Sunburns are often categorised into three different types, depending on the severity of skin damage. They are;
- First-degree sunburn
A first-degree sunburn is a minor, severe type of sun damage because it only affects the top layers of the skin, called the epidermis.
This sunburn often heals within a few days or a week.
- Second-degree sunburn
Second-degree sunburn is more severe than first-degree. It does not only affect the outer layer of the skin(epidermis), but it also affects the inner layer known as the dermis.
It takes a more extended period to heal when dealing with second-degree sunburn.
- Third-degree sunburn
This stage of sunburn rarely occurs. It is a bad sunburn that can cause severe damage to all skin layers and other tissue, such as sweat glands. A third-degree sunburn requires emergency medical treatment and care.
Symptoms of sunburn
There are different types of symptoms for each degree of sunburn.
Symptoms of first-degree sunburn are;
- Redness of the skin
- Pain or tenderness
- Swelling and blistering
- Skin peeling(after a couple of days)
- Skin hotness or tightness
Symptoms of second-degree sunburn are;
- Excessive redness of the skin
- Pain at the site of the burn
- White discolour at the site of the burn
- Swelling and blistering over a larger skin surface
- Wet looking skin
- Fast breathing
Symptoms of third-degree sunburn are;
- White or dull skin
- Skin numbness
- Leathery skin on the burn site
- Signs of heat illness include dizziness, nausea, fast breathing, exhaustion and heat stroke.
How do you treat sun damage?
Sunburn treatments also vary according to degrees. It is not all degrees of sunburn that requires emergency medical care. There are many natural ways to achieve sunburn relief from the comfort of your room. Some of the best natural sunburn remedies include:
Get out of the sun and preferably go indoors
The best thing to do when you get exposed to too many UV rays and get a sunburn is to get out of the sun and move indoors or go to where there’s protection from the sun. Doing this will help prevent further damage. It is also advisable to avoid additional sun exposure until the sunburn finally heals.
In cases where you have no choice but to be outdoors, cover the affected parts from direct sunlight until it’s finally healed.
Cool pads or towel
Dampening your towel or cotton pads with cool but not chilled water and placing it on your sun-damaged skin as soon as you get the chance also helps with the sunburn. Repeat this process for a few minutes and apply several times in a day for quick relief.
The first thing that would typically come to your mind after a day out in the sun is a cool bath. Yes, it’s fantastic but desist from using soap until your sunburn is healed. Using soap or any harsh shampoo may prove difficult on sunburns. You can try a soft natural body wash with rose water, which soothes sunburns.
Another way to have a no-soap bath to cool your sunburn is by adding apple cider vinegar to your water. It soothes inflammation, itching and pain. You can also dilute it with little water and apply it directly to the affected area.
Green tea contains some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help fight skin reactions such as sunburn from UV exposure. Applying green tea to sun-damaged skin helps reduce redness and heal the affected area.
There are certain compounds present in black tea that can help remove the heat from sunburned skin. Apply a cooled black tea directly to the affected area to relieve the sunburn. Black tea can also help repair skin damage and also prevent the skin from cancer.
Research has proved oatmeal helps ramp down inflammation and also reduce itching. Therefore, it may be one of the best sunburn treatments at home. There are varieties of soothing bath products that include oatmeal.
For easy access, grind up plain oats and pour them into your tub. Add cool bath water and soak for about 20 minutes. Have a nice bath and gently pat your skin afterwards. Be careful not to leave your skin dry after the bath to avoid further irritation.
If your instinct thinks about ice for sunburn treatment, be sure not to deny it. There has been controversy as to whether ice packs are good for sunburn or not. To answer that, ice packs help with sunburn. However, the problem lies with how to use ice packs for sunburn correctly; wrap an ice pack in a damp cloth and hold it over the affected area for short intervals. Going through this process will help absorb the heat from your skin and reduce swelling. You can decide to improvise and use any frozen pack without an ice pack. However, avoid direct skin contact with any pack you use to prevent further irritation.
Extreme sun exposure and high heat cause loss of fluids and electrolytes through the skin. To counteract the drying effects of sunburn, you need to drink lots of water. You can also snack on hydrating fruits such as cucumber, watermelon, tomatoes, grapefruit, and vegetables, as they contain more than 90% water. Doing this will keep the skin hydrated and less dry.
Researchers have been circling that the aloe vera plant helps with wound healing. For sunburn, take a leaf of aloe vera and apply the juice to the sun damage spots. It will help reduce your pain and swelling and speed up your recovery. If you are getting an aloe vera moisturising gel for sunburn, check if there’s no artificial colour or fragrance that can further irritate your skin.
Milk and Yogurt
For a sunburn characterised by a burning sensation and inflammation, mix fat-free milk with cold water and apply it to the affected area. Apply 2-4 times daily for relief.
You can also add yoghurt directly to the affected area, leave for a while and rinse with cool water.
Avoid pricking sunburn blisters
In cases where blisters appear due to sunburn, be careful not to prick it as it will only cause more discomfort and probably expose the area to infections. For this kind of situation, leave it alone and apply antibacterial ointment if they finally burst out on their own.
You should also not peel the skin; allow it to come off.
As much as these home remedies would be of great help for sunburn, seek medical help when you experience some symptoms.
When to seek medical help for sun damage?
Contact your nearest Healthcare provider if you experience any or combination of the following signs after excessive sun exposure:
- Painful blisters
- Skin rash
- Pale skin that feels clammy and cool to touch
- Sunken eyes
- Chills and fever
- Rapid breathing and pulse
- Extreme thirst
Modes of preventing sunburn
As the famous saying goes, “prevention is better than cure” you can decide to be careful enough to prevent sun damage on your skin by doing the following.
Avoid direct sunlight
The first tip to prevent your skin from sun damage is to stay away from the sun, especially in the middle of the day from 10 am to 3 pm, which is always the hottest part of the day. The ultraviolet rays that cause sunburn are always at their highest during these periods.
Wear protective clothing
When going out during the hottest part of the day, especially for long periods, it is advisable to wear tightly woven fabric that covers the body but is still breathable. A wide-brimmed hat will not only give you a sense of summer vibe but also protect you from harmful sun effects.
Always wear sunscreen
Wearing sunscreen is one of the most popular and the best way to prevent your skin from sun damage. As such, sunscreen should be your best pal every day. If applied regularly, sunscreen does not only reduce your overall UV exposure, it also gives your skin a good glow, prevents premature ageing, and prevents skin cancer.
A keynote when choosing a sunscreen is the amount of SPF it contains. Sun Protection Factor(SPF) measures how sunscreen protects you from UVA and UVB rays from the sun. Dermatologists advise using at least SPF30 or higher for optimum protection from sun damage. It would help if you also reapplied your sunscreen every 4 hours under direct sunlight or 2 hours underwater.
Wearing sunglasses that filter UV light to stop the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) from reaching your eyes is another smart move to protect yourself from sun damage.
Be sure to check if your sunglasses have UV protection the next time you get one.
FAQs about the best natural sunburn treatment and different modes of prevention
It is possible to get rid of the physical effects of sun damage on the skin. However, the DNA damage caused by the sun may not be reversible.
Excessive exposure to the sun often leads to irregular pigmentation of the skin. The skin may look sun-tanned or have a darker shade. A sun-damaged skin may also have a mottled reddish appearance due to permanent stretching of small blood vessels.
Irrespective of age, excessive exposure to UV rays can cause damage to the skin. However, as we age, the skin’s defences against skin diseases become weaker.
The best thing ever is to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays because most sun damage can be permanent, although some of its effects are reversible.
As much as sunscreen can help protect your face and body from sun damage, it can also help repair sún damage when applied religiously.
There are several home remedies and creams available to treat your sun spots and get rid of them.
You may be at higher risk for sunburn if you have light skin, if you work primarily outdoors, if you spend a lot of time on the water, if you play sports or swim outdoors regularly or live at a high altitude or closer to the equator.
Sunburn treatment may take a few days or weeks to heal, depending on the severity. You can take care of your sunburn with home remedies such as aloe vera, ice packs, tea, vinegar and other things. However, some severe symptoms may require seeking a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
It is advisable to prevent sunburn rather than look for remedies because getting sunburned frequently can ultimately lead to skin cancer.