Either from lack of sunscreen or overexposure to the sun’s powerful rays, almost everyone has experienced a sunburn at some point. Besides being uncomfortable, you may be wondering exactly what is a sunburn. If we truly understood what was happening to our skin as we casually soaked up the sun, we wouldn’t be so lax about using sunscreen and skin cancer prevention.
What is a Sunburn?
You’ve probably asked yourself, what is a sunburn and what does it do to my skin. A sunburn is the skin’s natural response to extreme ultraviolet exposure. In as little as ten minutes of intense UV exposure, the skin sets a system of defense against the UV rays into motion.
The first indication of any kind of damage is redness. This is the body’s inflammatory response to a situation where it has to repair itself. The end result is dilating blood vessels which cause the skin to become red in color. The skin then starts to lose moisture and hydration which makes it feel tight. Slowly, skin cells will start to thicken and melanin, which is the pigment, will be produced, giving the skin a tan appearance. The tan attempts to stop the UV rays from penetrating through to the deeper layers of the skin so it does not further damage the DNA of the cells.
Peeling after a sunburn is your body’s way of shedding the damaged cells that are at a risk of growing rapidly and eventually becoming cancerous. Due to this danger, all damaged cells sacrifice themselves and kill themselves off. This mass death of cells results in whole layers of damaged skin peeling off only to be replaced by other cells underneath those layers.
When the skin is exposed to high levels of sunlight, it may result in hyperpigmentation, which appears as irregular light or dark patches. The body does an excellent job coping with minimal amounts of damage, but if exposure is too great, the body will have difficulty repairing itself. If DNA is damaged and its repair mechanisms are inhibited there is a high chance of developing skin cancer.
What To Do After Getting Sunburn
Beyond understanding what a sunburn is, it is important to know what to do after getting one. Once you have realized that you have a sunburn, seek shade. It is recommended that you try to drink a lot of water, as you may become dehydrated. Depending on the severity of your skin’s condition, you may need to see a doctor if you develop blisters.
It is important to bring down the inflammation and to try to reduce damage to the deeper layers of your skin. Take a cool bath without adding additional products to the water and blot your skin dry. Try applying a generous amount of a soothing after-sun gel to red areas and then stay out of the sun and the heat. Look for products that contain ingredients such as clove, licorice, lavender, cucumber or yucca to reduce irritation, pain and redness.There is also an incredible ingredient called Japanese Alder, it accelerates the repair of UV-induced DNA damage. Couple this with ingredients such as algae and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate the skin and you will be well on your way to calmer skin.
Remember, it is not okay to lay out in the sun immediately following your burn. Your skin is still trying to heal so it must be kept out of direct sunlight for at least a few days. Even after using a great after-sun product, irreparable damage may have occurred in the form of premature aging or skin cancer that could reveal itself at a later time.
Be Proactive about Skin Safety
UV radiation is one of the leading cause of skin cancer in the United States, which is why everyone should know the answer to the question, what is a sunburn. Safety precautions should not be taken lightly so be proactive. At MoleSafe, our approach is proactive and comprehensive. Our MoleSafe Skin Surveillance Program has the reliable accuracy to reveal skin cancer and melanoma at the earliest possible stage for fast, effective treatment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.