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How to treat and prevent sunburn?

May 19, 2021
how to treat sunburn


What is sunburn?

A sunburn occurs when the skin is overexposed to the sun’s rays and it gets inflamed and feels hot to touch. Sunburnt skin appears after a few hours of overexposure to the sun’s UV light, or from overexposure to artificial sources like sun lamps. If you want to know how to remove sunburn then there are plenty of home remedies that can provide relief, but if the pain does not go away even with natural remedies then you will need to seek help from a dermatologist.

Worried about your skin condition? Get in touch with best of our skin specialists in Pune. For a skin treatment, book an appointment with our dermatologists near you +919584584111

Intense overexposure to UV light can not only lead to sunburns, but it can also result in various skin issues like dark spots, rough skin, fine lines and wrinkles, and the risk of developing serious diseases like skin cancer.

Sunburn can be prevented by taking the right precautionary measures and protecting the skin whenever you step out; even on cloudy days.

Sunburn Causes:

The simple explanation behind sunburn is that it’s caused due overexposure to the UV rays, which leads to irritated skin. But what goes beneath the skin is much more complicated. The sun gives off three wavelengths of ultraviolet lights, UVA, UVB, and UVC. Now, the UVC light doesn’t reach the Earth’s surface but the other two wavelengths not only reach the surface but they penetrate your skin as well. Overexposure to these rays leads to skin damage.

Sunburn is one of the obvious signs of sun damage, but most sun damage signs are not visible like premature aging and melanoma.

As mentioned before, the main cause of sunburn symptoms is overexposure to the UVA and UVB rays. The intensity of sunburn depends on factors like:

  • Skin type
  • Sun’s intensity
  • Duration of exposure to the sun

It also depends on your skin type. For instance, a light complexion will redden quickly on a hot day at the beach, as compared to a dusky complexion on a sunny day in the city.

Sunburn Symptoms:

The telltale signs of sunburnt skin are:

  • A drastic change in skin tone, skin turns an intense shade of red or pink
  • Skin feels warm or hot when touched
  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Fluid-filled blisters that are about to break
  • In severe cases, the person will feel nausea, fatigue, and fever
  • Eyes that feel dry, painful, itchy, and gritty

Any part of your skin that is exposed to the sun is vulnerable and can get sunburnt, and the symptoms will appear after a few hours after being exposed to the sun. However, with proper care and sunburn treatments, you will learn how to treat sunburn. Your skin will start healing itself and the damaged skin will start peeling off. If the skin is still painful after a couple of weeks and doesn’t peel as fast as you hoped, you may want to consult with a dermatologist.

Diagnosing sunburn symptoms:

Mild sunburns don’t need any doctor visits. But, if the signs range from moderate to severe then you have to seek medical attention. The doctor will ask about the symptoms and medical history. They will evaluate your condition and may perform a physical exam, as well.

Sunburn Skin Precautions:

It’s always good to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to any form of sun damage. So, here are some tips you can follow to keep your skin safe when stepping out:

Timing: Keep an eye on the clock when you step out. This is because the sun’s rays are intense between 10 am and 4 pm. If you can’t stay indoors during that time slot, then stick to shady spots and wear sunburn sunscreen.

Clothing: If you have to step out during the peak hours of the day then you have to wear sun-protective clothing like:

  • Broad-brimmed cap/hat
  • Long-sleeved shirt and full-length pants
  • UV blocking Polaroid lens sunglasses

Sunscreen: Applying a sunburn sunscreen is essential to prevent sunburn and any other sun damage. Before stepping out, you need to cover any exposed skin area with sunscreen. Ensure that it’s broad-spectrum so that it offers protection from UVA and UVB rays. It should be applied thirty minutes before stepping out, even during overcast days, and reapplied every two hours.

How to choose a sunscreen?

There are commercial sunscreens available, which block UV rays. These sunscreens will have a sunburn protection factor (SPF) which indicates the amount of protection provided by the product. So, the higher the rating better the protection.

Modern sunscreens include filters for UVA and UVB radiation. This is important because even though UVA doesn’t cause sunburn, it contributes to premature aging signs and increases the risk of skin cancer too. You need to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers protection against UVA and UVB radiation.

Studies have shown that you can gain optimum protection when the sunscreen is applied thirty minutes before stepping out, followed by a reapplication every two hours.

Sunburn home remedies and natural treatments:

Here are some popular home remedies for sunburn on the face and natural treatments that will help speed the healing process:

Stay indoors: If you have already noticed the symptoms of sunburn, then it’s best to avoid any sun exposure. Stay indoors as much as you can for the next one to two weeks, this will heal your skin and reverse the sun damage.

Taking a cool bath: Sitting in a tub of cool water will help soothe the irritated skin. Avoid taking a shower because the water pressure can aggravate the sunburnt skin. If you don’t have a tub, then you can take a cold damp towel and wrap it on the affected area.

Moisturize: A sunburnt face is dehydrated and it can crack as well, you have to use lotions for sunburn that is prescribed by your doctor to hydrate your skin.

Drink water: One major way in how to treat sunburn is to rehydrate, consistently. Sunburnt skin has little moisture, and drinking water helps hydrate the skin from within. It’s suggested that you drink three to four liters of water every day.

Sunburn home remedies:

Important Note: If you are allergic to any of these natural ingredients, do not attempt these home remedies. Consult your dermatologist if you have sensitive skin to avoid any kinds of reactions due to exposure. 

Oats and baking soda:

Mix a few tablespoons of baking soda and a cup of oats in a bowl of cold water, soak a towel in the mix and place it on the affected area for 20 minutes. The oats and baking soda mix help the skin retain its moisture and soothes irritation. Once you’re done dab yourself dry, don’t rub.

Aloe vera:

This is a popular home remedy when it comes to how to treat sunburn, the gel inside an aloe leaf provides relief from the sting. Break of a chunk of the leaf, extract the gel, and apply it directly to the affected area. If you don’t have an aloe plant, then you can find the gel at most pharmacies.


It may sound scary to apply any acidic liquid on a sensitive and painful area, but a solution of one part vinegar and two parts water can be applied on areas like sunburn on hands. It’s suggested that vinegar be used in a small area that is sun-damaged.

How to treat sunburn quickly?

Healing from sunburn can take time, it depends on various factors like the severity of the burn, and if you are taking the proper care during the recovery process. If you want to speed up the healing process then here are some tips you can follow:

Getting lots of sleep: lack of sleep can interrupt the healing process because it disrupts the cytokine production that helps your body reduce inflammation. This disruption can affect the healing process negatively.

Avoiding tobacco consumption: Smoking or chewing tobacco can cause inflammation, which will worsen the burns.

Avoiding sun exposure: Exposing the affected areas to more UV rays can damage your skin even further. If you have to go out, ensure that you’re sufficiently covered.

Sunburn skin treatments:

Here are some effective sunburn treatments that your doctor may recommend for moderate to severe cases:

Chemical peels:

In this face sunburn treatment, plant-based chemical solutions are used as controlled exfoliates. It removes the upper deformed skin layers, which includes the sunburnt areas. The chemical compositions are decided by the dermatologist after they examine your skin. A chemical peel helps bring a rejuvenated and clearskin to the surface, giving you a fresh look.

Laser resurfacing:

This is where a controlled light beam is used to target the damaged skin and helps remove it, thus stimulating new collagen production. This helps in new skin growth and removing the sunburnt skin.

Hydrocortisone cream:

This is a useful medicine that calms inflammation and reduces itching. You should consult with your doctor before using it.

Pain killers:

Sometimes, the healing process can be painful if the sunburn is severe. You can ask your dermatologist to prescribe a painkiller that is suitable for overcoming fatigue or any other pain you may be experiencing.

When to see a doctor for sunburn skin treatment?

You have to see your doctor if you experience the following:

  • If there is severe blistering and it covers a large part of your body
  • If you start developing blisters on your face, hand, or genitals
  • Severe swelling
  • Signs of infection, pus, or red streaks that lead away from an open blister
  • The healing is slow or the damaged skin doesn’t show any improvement in a few days.

Seek emergency care if you start experiencing the following:

  • A high fever that is over 103 degrees
  • Fainting spells
  • Confusion
  • Dehydration

Mostly, a sunburn will heal fine on its own; that is if you take proper care during recovery. If it’s a severe sunburn skin case or if it’s repeated, then you may want to consider seeking treatment. Firstly, you have to visit your primary doctor and they will suggest a dermatologist for you. Before, you go for your first appointment ensure that you have a list of your current medical plan; this includes vitamins and over-the-counter drugs. This is because some medicines can increase your skin’s sensitivity to UV light.

Some questions you can ask your doctor about how to treat sunburn are:

  • Can I use over the counter medicines or is it necessary to have a prescription?
  • How soon can you expect improvement after you begin treatment?
  • What skincare routine do they recommend during the healing process?
  • What are some suspicious changes should you look out for in your skin?

If the sunburn is severe or if your doctor starts noticing any abnormalities, you may have to do more tests and evaluations.

Why choose ClearSkin?

Basking under the sun’s warm glow for that extra dose of Vitamin D is good for the body, but only when done in moderation. Avoid staying out and overexposing your precious skin to the sun’s harsh rays, or else you will get sunburnt. Of course, sunburns can be avoided with the proper precautions but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you are suffering from a severe case of sunburn then you need to visit your dermatologist immediately and opt for a suitable treatment.

We can help you recover and gain your natural complexion back through evidence-based treatment methods and are transparent about the expected results to ensure customer satisfaction. We pride ourselves on providing patients with great care and guidance during the consultation and treatment stages, instead of treating it as a one-time session.

We practice the safest, quickest, and most effective procedures for treating sunburned and sun-damaged skin, ensuring a relatively painless experience. 

For treating your skin condition, feel free to get in touch with one of our best dermatologists in Pune. You can also call on +919584584111 to book an appointment at one of our skin clinics near you.


Dr Dhanraj Chavan

About the Author: Dr Dhanraj Chavan

Dr. Dhanraj Chavan is a globally trained, young, and dynamic dermatologist. He is a Consultant Dermatologist and Varicose Vein Specialist at Clear Skin, VeinMD, and HairMD.

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