17 Aug Summer Sunburn Facts to Know
A sunburn is your body’s visible reaction to ultraviolet radiation (UV) exposure, usually from the sun (although some people can get them from indoor tanning). Spectrum Dermatology is available to treat all results of a sunburn, from brown spots to early signs of aging and skin cancer. However, when it comes to sunburns, it’s important to remember that there is also invisible damage happening, and that invisible damage can take years to reveal itself. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US, and UV exposure is by far the leading cause.
You’re more likely to sunburn, develop brown spots, and get skin cancer if you have fair skin, naturally have a lot of moles, spend a lot of time outdoors (especially unprotected!), or if you have a family history of skin cancer. The UV rays are also strongest between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. in the summer when the sun is right overhead.
A sunburn presents as redness, pain, swelling, and in severe cases blisters, weakness, and fever or chills. The skin become itchy and peels in the days following a sunburn. If you get a sunburn, you can get immediate relief with cool compresses or a cool shower. Over the counter pain medications can further ease your discomfort. A moisturizer with aloe can also help, though you want to avoid any topical cream with benzocaine that can cause further irritation. Severe sunburns can be dangerous, and it’s important to seek immediate medical attention in these situations. Severe symptoms include a fever, vomiting, nausea, and blistering.
Of course, you can certainly enjoy some fun in the summer sun as long as your skin is protected. Ideally, sun protection begins at birth but this is rarely the case. It’s estimated that between 60 – 80 percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure happens before they turn 18. However, it’s never too late to start better protecting your skin and that starts with the ABCs of skin protection from the American Academy of Dermatology.
The ABCs of Skin Protection
The most comprehensive protection from the sun is to stay Away (A) during the peak UV hours in the middle of the day. Next, you want to Block (B) the sun’s rays with an SPF of at least 30. Medical-grade protection is best, and there are various types of protectants including lotions and sprays. Each type of sunscreen is different in terms of how it should be applied, in what amount, and whether or not you need to wait 30 minutes before going into the sun before it’s effective. Your dermatologist can recommend a sunscreen that works best for your skin and lifestyle.
Finally, you want to Cover Up (C) even if you’re properly wearing sunscreen. Some loose sleeves, pants, a brimmed hat and sunglasses can further protect your skin from damage. For infants less than six months old, they should be kept out of direct sunlight all the time.
Sunscreens or Sunblock?
Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, but there are some key differences. A sunscreen protects the skin chemically by penetrating the skin and absorbing UV rays before they cause damage. Some of the most common ingredients that do this include avobenzone, para-aminobenzoic acid, and oxybenzone. A sunblock physically stops UV rays from getting to the skin by sitting on the skin as a barrier. Sunblock usually has titanium oxide or zinc oxide. Most people prefer sunscreens because sunblocks are often thick and white—they can be noticeable on the skin even if you rub them in.
Sunscreens are the most common and they prevent the penetration of UV radiation into the skin. The amount of protection is gauged by the sun protection factor, or SPF. Keep in mind that no sunscreen or sunblock actually stops UV rays at 100 percent. Your skin will still experience some degree of UV damage even if you apply sunblock as you should.
A sunscreen should be broadband, which means it protects against both ultraviolet A (UVA) rays and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. It should be applied to all exposed parts of the skin, particularly the neglected areas of the ears, back of the neck, and around the eyes. Many people prefer waterproof or water-resistant protection.
Keeping Your Skin Safe
Even though most people prefer sunscreen, your skin and needs should be taken into account. For instance, sunblock is often better tolerated for those with sensitive skin. Avoiding sunscreen or sunblock with any fragrances can also help you avoid allergic reactions or rosacea flare-ups.
For the best sun protection, work with your dermatologist to develop a customized plan. Connect with Spectrum Dermatology today at (480) 948-8400 to learn more.