If you have ever spent too much time at the beach, you have probably noticed one of two outcomes. Either you were one of the lucky few who found yourself getting darker, or you went home with a nasty case of sunburn. Most of this has to do with the amount of melanin that is found naturally in your skin. Darker-skinned people tend to have more melanin, which comes to the surface of the skin to help protect the body from UV exposure. Fairer skinned people do not have as much of this natural defense, and so end up with an actual burn caused by too much sun. However, the damage caused by the sun can lead to long term health problems, including skin cancer and premature aging. Here is an in depth look at sunburns and what you can do.
Symptoms of Sunburn
For many people, a sunburn is not noticed until several hours after the sun exposure has occurred – too late for them to do anything to prevent it. Several hours later you may notice that your skin has become painful and red, and possibly even swollen. More severe cases will notice fever and blisters. Generally, the sunburn will reach its peak about 6 hours after you have been out in the sun.
Causes of Sunburn
Originally, the different colors of skin and eyes had a lot to do with where you lived. People who lived closer to the equator, where there was the most sun exposure, tend to have a darker skin type. People who lived closer to the pools, where sun exposure was most less, tend to have a much lighter skin type. However, thanks to modern travel capabilities, people of all skin types live in all skin zones.
The lightest skin types are those that are much more likely to burn than tan. Alternatively, the darkest skin types rarely burn when exposed to the sun. Persons with lighter skin are at the highest risk for severe sunburns that can lead to complications.
Damage from sunburn
Repeated sunburn can cause severe damage to the skin. When the skin becomes sunburned, toxins are released. Over time, these toxins speed up the aging process causing skin to appear older. Repeated sunburns can also cause irreversible damage to the skin cells. This damage can cause an increased risk of skin cancers.
Treatment and prevention of sunburn
Mild sunburns can be treated yourself at home. Over the counter pain relieves, cool baths or showers, aloe vera gel, and moisturizing lotions can all help the skin to cool down, stay moisturized, and heal faster. Sunburns that blister should be looked at by a doctor, since this can increase your risk of infection.
When you are going to be out in the sun for extended amounts of time, it is important to protect your skin. Keep skin covered with clothing as much as possible, and use sunscreen on any exposed areas. If you feel like you are becoming overheated, move indoors or into the shade as soon as possible to prevent a burn.