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Sun Burns - Causes and treatments

10th June 2012  : 

Sun burns are not only painful and unpleasant; they are a visual reminder of the hidden damage that ultraviolet (UV) radiation can do to your skin. While sun burns and sun damaged skin can not only be painful, they can increase your chance of getting certain skin conditions such as altered skin pigmentation, fine lines and even skin cancer.

Causes of Sun Burn

Everyone knows that exposure to the sun can cause a sun burn, so why do people still get them? Some of the reasons include:

  • Forgetting that the sun's rays are strongest between 10am and 3pm and not taking extra precautions at this time of day.
  • Applying sun screen once in the morning and not reapplying it when necessary.
  • Allowing sun screen to wash off in the water or rub off on sand or clothing.
  • Not choosing a sun screen with a high enough SPF for your skin type and the weather conditions.
  • Forgetting to apply sun screen to certain areas of the skin such as the back of the neck.

Sun Burn Treatments

Once you realise you have sunburn you should remove yourself from the sun or protect the affected area by covering it with loose clothing. Avoid the sun until you have healed. Cooling the area with water can be soothing. Drink plenty of water to further cool you and prevent dehydration. Moisturising creams and aftersun creams should be applied. Painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol can be used according to their directions. If your sunburn is severe, you may require specialist treatment. Your pharmacist can advise you if you are concerned.

For longer lasting damage a number of treatments are available. Skin pigmentation fine lines and wrinkles can all be reduced by skin peels. Microdermabrasion and laser skin resurfacing can also help with improving the appearance of sun damaged skin.

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