The effect of sunburn on your skin is underestimated. Sunburn is a symptom of skin damage and an increase in risk for skin cancer. Ultra Violet UV rays from the sun penetrate the skin and cause varing degrees of impact depending on the length of exposure to the sun, time of day and location.

Sunburn can cause 1rst degree burns (injury only to the top layer of skin which is red, sore and sensitive) or more severly 2nd degree burns (penetrate deeper into the skin and nerve endings causing swelling, blistering, heat, fever and occasionally vomiting, dehydration and infection). The suns UV rays cause damage to the cell DNA, which causes skin cell changes, mutation and cell death. Under a microscope a sunburnt skin cell looks like a cancer cell!!!

The sun emits a large spectrum of light/energy at different wavelengths, however it’s the Ultra Violet rays that cause the damaging effects on the skin(aging and cancer)and eyes(cataracts). There are 3 different types of UV rays:

UVA – 95% of the earth’s radiation. Penetrates deeply into the skin and the oceans and through glass. Causes AGING, ie sunspots, pigmentation and wrinkles.

UVB – causes BURNING, does not penetrate deeply into the skins, oceans or glass.

UVC – deadly solar rays that are generally absorbed by the ozone layer

UV INTENSITY can change depending on location and time of day. Generally the sun’s rays are strongest

  • between 10am and 4pm,
  • proximity to the equator
  • areas where there is ozone layer depletion (southern hemisphere)
  • under cloud cover, proximity to water, snow and sand reflections,
  • Between late spring and early summer
  • Higher altitude


Sunscreen filter the UV rays from penetrating the skin. Most sunscreens only block out UVB rays, only broad spectrum products block out A&B. The SPF rating on the sunscreen relates to the amount of time it takes for your skin to redden without any sun protection, ie SPF 30 – 30x longer to burn than without sunscreen.

BUT….. there are many contributing factors:

  • Certain medications can make skin more sensitive – certain antibiotics, oral contraceptives, ance medication and many other
  • Sweating & swimming reduce efficacy and reapplication is needed
  • Sensitive skin types, like small children and babies, people with skin cancers and genetic disorders also should take extra precautions

Its important not only to rely on sunscreen but seek shade and use cover up clothing, hats and sunglasses. Be aware of time of day in the sun and other exposure risks.


Generally treatment includes cooling the skin down and hydrating the patient.

  • Cool baths or showers, leaving the skin damp
  • Apply moisturizer to rehydrate the skin
  • Apply aloe vera to soothe the skin
  • Take ibuprofen or arnica to reduce pain and swelling
  • Stay hydrated
  • Do not pop blisters, allow them to heal
  • Protect burnt skin from the sun
  • Occasionally a doctor should be consulted in cases where there is vomiting, severe dehydration and/or infection.

Lastly…. The sun gives us life and energy and we need exposure to the sun to be healthy and for vitamin D, however overexposure can be very harmful to you and your loved ones so take the necessary precautions.