No More Fun in the Sun? The Serious Risks of Sunburn

Sunburn isn’t just painful–it’s bad for your health, too. It is literally a radiation burn! Not only will sunburn increase your risk of developing skin cancer, but it also puts you in danger of developing heat exhaustion or even heat stroke, as well as premature aging.

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Cancer Risk

One of the most serious risks of sunburn is increasing your risk of developing skin cancer. When your skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation, it causes damage to your cells. A sunburn is proof that you’ve done harm to yourself, but regular exposure without burning–while tanning, for example–contributes to the cumulative effect of damage over time.

Early sunburns seem to be especially bad news for developing melanoma later in life. A study from the American Association for Cancer Research found that women who experienced bad sunburns between the ages of 15-20 were up to 80% more likely to develop skin cancer.

Even if you’re past the “danger” age, it’s still important to avoid getting burned.

Sunburn Prevention

The only sure way to prevent sunburn is to stay indoors–but that’s not realistic, is it? Instead, you should take precautions to limit your UV exposure.

Dermatology professor Dr. Martin Weinstock of Brown University recommends the “slip-slop-slap” method of sunburn prevention:

  • Slip on loose, lightweight clothing that covers your skin.
  • Slop on sunscreen over exposed areas, especially your neck, chest, nose, and forehead.
  • Slap on a hat to protect your scalp and limit the amount of UV rays that reach your face.

The Slip-Slop-Slap safety campaign began in Australia in the 1980s, but the advice is even more relevant today. With rising temperatures across the globe, sun protection should be a priority for everyone.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a waterproof sunscreen of SPF 30. Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before leaving the house–even on cloudy days!

Home Remedies

If you’re reading this post too late to avoid a sunburn, here are a couple of home remedies that can help you heal.

Make a paste of cold cooked oatmeal, baking soda, and olive oil. Sounds weird, right? But dermatologists recommend this mixture for taking the sting out of bad burns. Apply the paste to the affected area and leave it on for about 15 minutes before rinsing off in the shower.

If you have a whole-body burn, then an apple cider vinegar bath might be your best bet. ACV has well-known anti-inflammatory properties, plus the acetic acid will help reduce peeling.

Use no more than 8 oz of vinegar for a filled bathtub–you don’t want to damage your skin further with an overly strong solution. Soak for 10 minutes in lukewarm water. Worried about the smell? Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil.