With blazing temperatures and humidity reaching extreme heights this summer, chances are your skin may be harmed. The effects of intense heat can cause your skin to experience swelling, red patches, and sunburn blisters. Furthermore, the exposure to UVA and UVB, which breaks down collagen and elastin, can result in long-term damage such as wrinkles and ageing skin. Worse still is the possibility of sunburnt skin increasing your risk of skin cancer. According to Cancer Research UK getting sunburnt just once every two years can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer.
While a mild tan may look sexy, the key is to understand if it’s just a sun kissed glow or actually damage done to your skin. To help you enjoy the summer safely, we answer your frequently asked questions on sunburn.
Q1: How do I know if I am sunburnt?
If your skin after being exposed to the sun feels hot, red, tender, swollen or blistered, you are likely to have suffered sunburn. Sunburns can feel very similar to burns, and the more severe the sunburn, the greater the chances of the skin becoming blistered or swollen.
Q2: What does Sunburn do to my skin?
There are two main UV rays which affect your skin, by causing direct damage to the DNA in your skin cells. While UVA penetrates deeper, it results more in skin aging and less of actual sunburn. UVB rays on the other hand, are directly responsible for sunburns. As part of your body’s healing process, you may find your skin peeling and itching as your body tries to rid itself of sun-damaged cells.
Q3: What is the first thing I should do if I am sunburnt?
As sunburns often occur several hours after actual exposure to the sun, your skin may start to exhibit the signs of sunburn only after a while. As soon as you see your skin turn red or dark pink, you need to start cooling the skin to remove the heat coming from the burn. Wrapping ice in a flannel and placing it over the affected areas will instantly subside the burning feeling. You can also opt to take a cool shower. Be sure to avoid hot or even warm water.
Q4. When should I see a doctor?
Post any sunburn, it is advisable to consult with a dermatologist, who can assess the damage to your skin and prescribe the correct treatment. However, if you start to experience any of the below symptoms, be sure to check with a doctor at once.
- Fever of 38C degrees or higher
- Chills or pains
- Sunburnt area is 20% or more of your body
- Signs of dehydration such as dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, etc.
Q5: What products should I use or avoid?
As a first-line measure to get immediate relief, you can use any light and non-greasy lotion containing aloe vera, cucumber, shea butter, rose water or calamine. All of the above have high water content and natural cooling properties which can help you feel better.
You should be careful to avoid any creams or gel that contain ingredients such as petroleum, benzocaine, or lidocaine. Petroleum can trap the heat inside your skin, while benzocaine and lidocaine can cause irritations.
Post the immediate measures, it is always advisable to visit a dermatologist who will prescribe the right treatment based on your skin type and intensity of the burn.
Q6: When can I go back in the sun?
Until your sunburn heals completely it is best to avoid exposure to the sun. Do check with your dermatologist if the skin has been healed fully, before resuming activities that involve sun exposure.
Q7. How do I avoid being sunburnt?
Summer is a lovely time to enjoy the great outdoors. With a few precautions, you can safely enjoy the beautiful summer season.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids in order to keep your skin cool and hydrated.
- The sun’s rays are strongest between 11 AM and 3 PM. Avoid stepping out during this time.
- Wear sun-protective clothing like sunglasses, long-sleeves shirts, ankle length pants and a broad—brimmed hat.
- Use a sunscreen recommended by your dermatologist. The sunscreen should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Also, be sure to apply sufficient sunscreen at least 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours or more often if you are swimming or perspiring heavily.
Summer doesn’t have to be a dampener. With a few precautions, a good sunblock, and advice from your dermatologist, you can enjoy a sunburn-free summer.