Spending significant time under the direct sunlight may lead to sunburn, ranging from painful and irritating to possible life threat. Continuous exposure also hurts the skin, accelerating the ageing process and increasing the chance of skin cancer forming. Skin is divided in two large layers, called the epidermis – outer layer that acts as the main defense mechanism against harmful environment, and dermis, the inner layer that provides support and structure for the skin. The lowermost epidermis tissue layer is the basal layer that secretes and transforms substances needed by skin, moving to the outer skin layers and eventually becoming the skin protection. There are also melanocyte cells within this layer, which act as a protective measure against sunlight, secreting a special material called melanin, which absorbs harmful light rays. Around 95 percent of the light being absorbed by the skin is UVA, which is an important factor in the sunburn forming. When the sunlight is much more powerful than what melanin can handle, the sunburn is created. Sunburns essentially kill skin cells so the body reacts by increasing the blood flow to the affected area, causing inflammation. UV light can also damage the skin’s DNA, which will lead to skin cancer.
Contrary to instantaneous heat burns, sunburn inflammation and redness as a rule form around four hours after the sun exposure, with maximum redness being achieved in 12 to 24 hours. After a couple of days, outer skin will peel away, as body’s way of healing itself, shedding the top layer of damaged skin. Strong sunburns may lead to fever, nausea and blistering to various degrees. Extremely strong sun exposure leads to sun poisoning, which is life-threatening. It comes in the form of sever blistering, de-fluidization and imbalance of important body chemicals and even may lead to deadly infections. Best preventive measure for sunburns is not letting oneself be caught unprotected if you are planning to be under the direct sunlight for more than 20 minutes. Sunscreens should be used at all times, with SPF15 or greater. Soothing gels, compresses, baths, skin moisturizers and special medication are available as household treatments to relieve the sunburn. Blisters should not be popped. Help should be found in case of sickness, and in the case sunburn is extremely strong, hospital burn unit should be called. Mild sunburns usually take from three days to over a week to heal. The main strategy to avoid risks of sunburns is not spending too much time under the direct sunlight.