The weather is warm, the sun is shining, and life feels amazing. Until you get home one evening to realize you got sunburned. Sound familiar? No worries, you're not alone.
One sunburn isn't going to do much harm, except for the discomfort and pain you'll feel for a few days. But repeating this scenario day in and day out has some major risks for your long-term health.
You can't always avoid going out when the sun is at its worst, but you can protect yourself. Sunscreen, wearing loose, light clothing, and other tricks can help.
But when should you use sunscreen? Is it enough to use it when going to the beach? Is it something to use daily? Should you use it only in summer and ditch it during the winter? And what if you do get sunburned? We'll cover all this and more.
Let's talk about UV rays
UV radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation or energy. It comes from sunlight, lasers, tanning beds, and other sources.
There are 3 types of UV rays according to their wavelength.
- UVA rays have the longest wavelength.
- UVB rays have a medium wavelength.
- UVC rays have the shortest wavelength.
All 3 types are responsible for sunburn, sun poisoning, and even skin cancer. However, UVC rays don't occur naturally. They only appear in UVC lights, welding torches, and mercury lamps. Both UVA and UVB rays occur with sunlight and tanning beds.
UVA rays are the most common, especially when talking about sunlight. 95% of ultraviolet radiation from the sun is UVA. These rays have an immediate effect. They can cause premature aging, sunburn, and even certain types of skin cancer.
Want another fun fact? UVA rays can penetrate windows and even clouds. So don't count on a cloudy day thinking you're safe from ultraviolet radiation. You may be in for a surprise! The clouds will probably help you avoid sunburn, but they won't do much in the way of the other UVA side effects.
So...when should you use sunscreen?
The short answer is: anytime you go outside, regardless of weather or season.
We already established that clouds do little in the way of UV rays. And this is true in any season. Sure, in winter, you might feel you have bigger problems than sunscreen, like keeping warm. Plus, you're not showing too much skin. But the little you are showing will still need protecting.
Remember that for prolonged exposure to the sun, you'll need to re-apply sunscreen. How often? That depends on the brand you're using and other activities you're doing. Usually, the recommended interval is 2 hours. If you constantly go in and out of the water, you'll need to re-apply sunscreen more often. The same is true if you're sweating a lot.
What you need to know about SPF
One conversation that comes up when talking about sunscreen is SPF.
Dermatologists say that an SPF of 30 should be enough for most people. That being said, if you're someone with very sensitive skin, a lot of moles, or get burned quickly and easily, you may want to go for an SPF of 50 or even 100.
SPF isn't everything, though. The time of day when you go out matters a lot. According to the FDA, spending an hour outside between 9 AM and 10 AM is about the same as spending 15 minutes at 1 PM in terms of UV radiation. So if you know you'll be out during peak hours, choose the higher SPF sunscreen.
Keep in mind that using SPF 50 or 100 doesn't mean you're 100% protected against all side effects of UV rays. You'll still need to limit exposure during peak hours and take other measures to protect yourself.
Other ways to protect your skin
Wearing clothing that covers your body can be an excellent way to protect your skin. This is especially true if you know there's no way to limit exposure, and you won't be able to re-apply sunscreen throughout the day.
Sadly, light fabric of light colors might allow some UV rays through. Of course, wearing tight clothing of dark color in the middle of a hot day may do more harm than good. So choose something that will help you be both comfortable and protected.
Accessories, such as hats and sunglasses, are a must. Those are two areas where sunscreen can offer no protection. Yet, the sun can do a lot of damage to your eyes.
Speaking of sunglasses, try to choose something that has UV protection. UV rays can damage your eyesight. Plus, the skin around your eyes remains vulnerable if there's no proper UV protection.
Finally, avoiding sun exposure during peak hours is the best protection for your skin. Most agree peak hours are between 11 AM and 4 PM. Depending on where you live and the temperatures, there might be days when you'll be safer limiting exposure starting at 10 AM.
What to do when you get sunburned?
Everyone will get sunburned at least once in their life. No matter how well you know your protective measures, an accident could happen one day. Maybe you forget to apply sunscreen on a tiny area, or you don't re-apply it in time. Perhaps something unexpected happens, and you're in the sun much longer than anticipated.
As long as you don't make a habit out of it, it's not a tragedy.
Sun poisoning may be a bit more severe, but the first steps to treat it are usually the same.
Use aloe vera
Aloe vera is an excellent remedy for both sunburn and sun poisoning. It is the most common over-the-counter relief. Many products aimed at treating sunburn also contain it in varying doses as it provides immediate relief in the case of minor burns.
Alternatively, you can choose an OTC remedy, like our Silver Gel, that's great for treating 1st and 2nd-degree burns and minor wounds. It doesn’t contain aloe vera, so it’s great if you have an allergy, and it will help ease the discomfort and minimize the risk of infections.
The key is to keep your skin clean, reduce inflammation, avoid infections, and alleviate discomfort. Both aloe vera and other OTC remedies are great for this.
Take a bath
Taking an Epsom salt or oatmeal bath can also do wonders. Epsom salt is an anti-inflammatory that can help soothe burns, hives caused by sun poisoning, and more. Oatmeal can relieve irritation and itchiness while also having some anti-inflammatory properties.
Staying hydrating is always important. Chances are while getting sunburn, you were also sweating a lot by being out in the sun. Your skin also needs all the help it can get while healing. So start drinking at least 8 glasses of water daily as if your life depends on it.
Don't forget your vitamins
Vitamins can also help greatly. Vitamin E, for instance, can help your skin heal. There are also some topical vitamin E creams and lotions which will help ease the pain. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties and can help protect against UV damage.
When to see a doctor
In severe cases, you may need to see a doctor.
Symptoms to look out for include vomiting, dizziness, severe headache, blistered skin, fatigue, and more. These are usually signs of sun poisoning and are often severe.
If this is your case, talk to a doctor. They'll be able to assess the severity of your condition and prescribe proper remedies.
Summer is fun; sunburns are not. When should you wear sunscreen? In short, any time you go out. Don't count on clouds to keep you safe from UV rays. You may not get burned on a rainy day, but that doesn't mean you're entirely safe.
Sunscreen comes in many versions. Most people will be fine using one with SPF 30. Those with more sensitive skin should go for an SPF of 50 or even 100. But don't think a high SPF means you're free to stay in the sun for as long as you'd like. You need to re-apply sunscreen every few hours. Whenever possible, you should also avoid exposure during peak hours or take other measures as well.
Finally, if the inevitable happens and you do get sunburned, there are many ways to ease sunburns. You can do a lot, from aloe vera to vitamins, to help your skin heal. We also suggest our OTC gel, which is perfect for 1st and 2nd-degree burns and minor injuries. It will help keep infections at bay while easing discomfort and pain.
This blog post does not provide health or medical advice. This blog post is for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health or medical advice. Before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate medical and healthcare professionals. We do not provide any kind of health or medical advice. The use or reliance of any information contained on this blog is solely at your own risk.