When it comes to our largest and most visible organ, there is so much we still don't know. However world-leading research gives us overwhelming evidence that skin damage, even from mild tans, can accumulate over the years and cause harm. It's important that sunscreen is worn most days so that we can be safe and at the same time enjoy the glorious sunshine. We also need to avoid extreme exposure that can cause sunburn. In this article we talk about sunburn and how best to treat it.
So, What is Sunburn?
Sunburn is skin damage caused by the invisible particles of sunlight called ultraviolet rays (UV). There are two main types of UV light: UVA and UVB. UVA rays are weaker than UVB but they penetrate the deep layers of the skin. These damage the dermis of the skin and speed up the photoageing process, by slowing down collagen production.
UVB rays are absorbed by the top layers of skin called the epidermis. This causes tanning but can also lead to burning. The effects of sunlight on the skin stimulate more melanin production which makes your skin look tanned.
The effects of UVA and UVB on the skin both increase your risk of developing skin cancer. 8 out of 10 skin cancers are linked to excessive sun exposure.
Sunburn Effects on the Skin
Sunburnt skin is inflamed skin, which is red, hot and painful. A few days later it may peel. A misconception about sunburn is that the red, inflamed skin will tan. The burn you see and feel is a warning sign that the skin is damaged. Your skin may look more tanned as your skin heals, but this is due to increased melanin production in the skin. Melanin is the remarkable pigment produced by melanocytes. These small cells live at the bottom of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). They release melanin which acts as our natural sunscreen, but only has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 3. That's why we need extra protection with a good quality sunscreen, even when you’re tanned as your skin can still burn.
How to Treat Sunburn
Reducing the inflammation and cooling the skin is the first step. A cold shower or bath can help reduce the burn.
Applying aftersun, moisturisers or healing oils can help reduce the dryness and peeling effects. Almond or St John's Wort oil is an ancient tradition in hot Mediterranean countries to heal damaged skin. In South East Asian countries like India, coconut oil is used on sunburnt skin (and regularly on hair too). It has a high concentration of saturated fats which are good for healing and further protection. Aloe Vera is also a great option and helps soothe the skin and promote skin healing. We would highly recommend Skinirvana oil
Products that use petroleum jelly or minerals (like Vaseline) are not ideal treatments for sun damaged skin. These mineral based products are used as a barrier and therefore can block the pores. This prevents heat escaping, causing the burn to penetrate into deeper layers of the skin.
Top Ten Tips:
1. Avoid excessive exposure to the sun. especially in water which magnifies the effects of the UV rays
2. PROTECT YOUR SKIN with organic and natural sun protection factor products (at least SPF 30+)
3. Cool the skin as quickly as possible
4. Moisturise skin
5. Drink lots of fluids
6. take painkiller to reduce any pain
7. Children are at particular risk as their skin is so delicate. Keep them cool and covered up.
8. Apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going into the sun and don't miss out ears, lips, neck and back of hands
9. Re-apply every 3 hours, especially after a swim
10. Wear loose fitting clothing, hat and shades