Sunburns — How Bad Are They Really?

Sunburns — How Bad Are They Really?

You’ve been to the beach or the pool, or you’ve been working outside and gotten sunburned. Your sunscreen must have worn off — or did you forget to put it on in the first place? Does getting a sunburn really damage your skin? The answer is yes. 

Our board-certified dermatologists with Seacoast Dermatology are skin care experts who help keep your skin healthy. Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It covers you completely, so you may forget its importance and take it for granted. 

Sunburns increase your chances of developing skin cancer. To prevent this, we want to provide you with the facts and help you develop skin-healthy habits. 

What happens to your skin when you get a sunburn?

A sunburn is a sign that the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation has damaged your skin cells. Your blood vessels open up to bring oxygen and other nutrients to the damaged skin to help heal it. The healing process includes the red, inflamed skin of a sunburn. 

You feel the worst effects of a sunburn 24-36 hours after you’ve been exposed to the sun. Your skin does heal, but repeated sunburns can result in changes in your skin’s DNA. 

The cells undergo molecular changes. Some may die; others may mutate. The mutations may lead to cancer eventually. As seen through a microscope, a sunburned skin cell presents as a cancer cell. 

If you or a loved one has ever had a bad sunburn, you don’t want another one. Your skin is bright red, may be swollen, and may blister and peel. It’s a painful process. Pain is your body’s signal telling you that it’s being harmed in some way. 

If your body could talk to you, it would plead with you to never hurt your skin that way again. 

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. And sun exposure is the leading cause. 

Why you should protect against sunburn at an early age

It’s important to protect against sunburn during the pre-teen and teenage years, when many young people want to go to the beach and get a tan. If you’re a parent, it’s critical to inform your children about the dangers of too much sun exposure. 

Sunburns at an early age are associated with an increased risk of melanoma, the type of skin cancer that can be deadly. Researchers found that teens who were repeatedly sunburned between ages 15 and 20 were 80% more likely to develop melanoma later in life, perhaps when they become parents themselves. 

How to protect yourself and your loved ones from sunburn 

We put together these tips to help you protect yourself and your loved ones from sun damage that can lead to skin cancer. 

Apply sunscreen every day

If you’re going out, apply sunscreen before you leave the house. Use sunscreen even on cloudy days; you can still get a sunburn even if the sun is hiding behind the clouds.

Use a high SPF factor. If you’re a redhead or very fair, use SPF 50+. Be sure the sunscreen is water-resistant if you’re at the beach or the pool, and look for “broad-spectrum” on the bottle.

Cover up

If you’re a snowbird who escapes New England in the winter and you’re exposed to the sun year-round, include clothing with an SPF factor in your daily wardrobe. You need less sunscreen that way and don’t have to think about reapplying. 

Also, wear sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat when you’re in the sun, whether you’re gardening or going for a walk. 

Reapply sunscreen as directed 

Sunscreen isn’t an apply-and-forget-it type of routine. Reapply the sunscreen as directed on the bottle — usually every two hours or when you get out of the water. 

Avoid the sun’s rays during its peak hours

If you can, stay inside or stay in the shade during the time when the sun is at its peak, usually around 10am to 2pm. Change your daily routine if you’re at the beach. Take a siesta or go to the movies during the middle of the day rather than bake on the beach. 

Seek the shade

Use a large beach umbrella or tent at the beach or pool. Wear protective clothing, sunscreen, and a hat if you must work in the sun. 

Call us at Seacoast Dermatology today for all of your skin care needs. We have offices in Portsmouth, Exeter, and Dover, New Hampshire.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Should You Apply Sunscreen or Makeup First?

You’re thrilled it’s summer and are spending a lot of time outside. Should you put on your sunscreen or your makeup first? Which order is best for your beauty routine, or does it matter?

Getting Your Skin Ready for Another Summer

Summer is just around the corner. The days are getting longer and warmer. It’s time to shed that dry, dull, winter skin and restore its radiant beauty. Here are some helpful tips.

Best Foods for Acne

If you or your loved one has painful acne, you may wonder if the foods you’re eating make it worse. Learn what the research says about the best foods to eat if you have acne.

Recovering from Mohs Surgery

You’ve learned you have skin cancer, and now you’re scheduled for Mohs surgery. You may be wondering what the recovery period is like. Learn more about it here.