Sunburn Damage to Skin and Prevention Recommendations

How Do Sunburns Occur?

We can all agree that sunburns are very painful experiences to have. However painful and irritating they are, they always occur as a protective response to our skin being damaged by UV rays from the sun. It warns the body that the skin has been damaged and starts the repair process.


There are two main types of ultraviolet rays that can lead to sunburn namely UVA and UVB rays. These rays are emitted by the sun and affect the skin to varying degrees. The first type, UVA rays, typically do not lead to sunburn and therefore their effect is less severe. However, they penetrate the skin deeper than UVB rays do and lead to premature aging.

UVB rays, on the other hand, are more severe and cause immediate sunburns. They are more present on hot and sunny days (during summer for instance) and may lead to skin cancer if you regularly get sunburnt. In fact, research has shown that UVB ray sunburns increase the risk of getting skin cancer by up to 300 percent!

How Much Damage Can a Sunburn Do?

Sunburns may lead to the formation of scaly patches known as actinic keratosis. These patches mostly occur on the scalp, lips, face, neck, forearms, and back of the hands. They slowly enlarge with more exposure to the sun and if left unchecked or untreated, they may develop into squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common type of skin cancer.

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Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) presents itself in the form of a scaly patch, a red bump, or a sore that never fully heals. These skin growths normally appear on the back, chest, face, arms, neck, and ears.

Sun Damage Prevention

Sun-damaged skin cannot be cured, sadly, it can only be shed off as your body regenerates. The best method to reduce the chances of skin damage is by taking preventative measures daily. These measures include limiting your time out in the sun if possible, wearing a hat while outside, avoiding tanning beds, and always wearing sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 daily.