Sunburn

Sunburn is caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet rays which can make skin red, sore and blistered. The severity can vary depending on your skin type and how long you are exposed to UV light for.

Everybody is at risk of getting sunburn, but those with less melanin (the pigment produced by skin to absorb UV radiation found in sunlight) have less protection against the effects of UV light. If you have fair skin, red hair or are not used to exposure to sunlight, your melanin levels are likely to be lower meaning you are more at risk of suffering from sunburn.

We chatted to Dr Stefanie Williams, Dermatologist and Medical Director at European Dermatology London, for her top tips on staying safe in the sun.

GTG: What is tanning/sunburn?

“Unfortunately, there is no safe way to tan. A tan is our skin’s response to an injury, and occurs when the sun’s rays penetrate into the skin’s deeper layers, causing the skin to produce more pigment as a response to the injury. Every time you tan, you accumulate damage to the skin. Your skin doesn’t forget it, it remembers every hour of sun (back to your childhood) and ‘clocks’ those up over time.

GTG: How can we stay safe in the sun?

“While you should never, ever burn, even tanning is harmful for fairer skin types. Avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun and wearing an SPF that’s above 30 is always recommended. However, just because you are wearing sun cream doesn’t mean you are no longer at risk. My advice to patients is to always follow these four steps:

1) Sun avoidance

2) Textile sun protection

3) SPF 50 with a high UVA protection

4) High-grade anti-oxidant serum

GTG: How can we treat sunburn?

“The gold-standard for treating chronic sun damage is prescription tretinoin. This is a very useful cream which I prescribe in the clinic to patients every single day. Over-the-counter retinol is also useful, but naturally prescription creams are stronger.

GTG: Tell us about after-sun care…

“It is crucial to never let your skin burn in the sun. You should be aware that the maximum redness will only occur after 24 hours, so at the time of exposure it is hard to judge when you have had too much. However, should you have had an accident and find your skin has become red, application of a mild steroid cream like 1% Hydrocortisone cream will help to bring down the redness.

If you prefer a natural remedy, many people find application of Quark (wrapped in a clean kitchen towel or cotton cloth) soothing. Quark is a type of fresh dairy product made from soured milk (very popular in Germany), available in most big supermarkets. It cools and is anti-inflammatory. Taking an aspirin (as soon as you notice any redness developing) can also help to not only soothe the pain, but offer anti-inflammatory properties too. If however, you have severe redness or even blisters, make sure to see a doctor as soon as possible!”

For more top tips on how to look after your skin, follow Dr Stefanie on Twitter @DrStefanieW

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