Most people experience a sunburn at least once in their life. The sun’s UV rays cause painful and unsightly burns. To protect itself from these rays, the body produces melanin faster when exposed to sunlight, darkening the skin so that it appears tanner. This production is limited, so too much exposure causes a burn. Those with fair skin are even more susceptible to sunburn and the lasting effects of sun exposure.
So, how long does sunburn last? The redness from most sunburns will last between three to five days, at which time your skin will peel and replace itself with fresh skin. The pain usually starts within five or six hours of getting a burn and will be at its worst around 24 hours after sun exposure.
The length of time it takes a sunburn to heal will vary depending on the severity of the burn and your skin type. People with more fair skin will likely have sunburns that last longer and are more severe.
Preventing a Sunburn
Sunburns are painful and cause redness and irritation, but repeated sunburns can have many negative impacts on your skin over time, including wrinkles, sunspots, and cancer. The best way to protect your skin from the long-term effects of the sun’s harmful UV rays is to prevent getting a sunburn.
Applying a broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen is one of the best ways to protect your skin, and should be worn every time you spend extended amounts of time outdoors. A sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or greater is ideal. Apply sunscreen every 30 minutes when outdoors for long periods of time, and use a waterproof sunscreen if you are doing an activity in the water or sweating.
Some other ways to avoid a sunburn include:
- Stay out of the sun during peak daylight hours - approximately between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Stay in the shade whenever possible.
- Wear clothing that offers UVA/UVB protection, as well as hats and sunglasses when outdoors.
- Don’t use expired sun protection products.
How to Get Rid of Sunburn Redness, Peeling, and Pain
Sunburns are painful and cause unsightly redness and peeling. While there’s no overnight fix to a sunburn, the below tips can speed up how long it will take for your sunburn to heal and help relieve symptoms.
Use Milk or Yogurt
You may have heard a milk bath can help reduce the redness and pain caused by a sunburn, but it actually is more effective to apply milk directly to the affected area without diluting it with water. Soak a washcloth or gauze in milk and then press it to your skin for instant, cool relief. The milk protein will also help reduce inflammation. Yogurt proteins can also help speed up sunburn healing, and its coolness will relieve pain.
Try Vitamin E or Other Antioxidants
Antioxidants like vitamin E target inflammation-causing oxidative stress in your skin cells following a sunburn to reduce redness and swelling. Apply a vitamin E oil to the affected area to soothe skin and prevent peeling, or take a regular dose of the supplement to experience its anti-inflammatory effects.
Apply an Aloe Vera-Based Cream or Gel
An aloe-based cream, like Nacach’s Post Depilation Moisturizing Milk, can help reduce the redness and pain associated with sunburns. The creamy moisturizing lotion contains aloe, calendula, and chestnut extracts to cleanse and renew sunburned skin to leave it refreshed and hydrated. The soft and non-greasy formula soothes skin irritation and helps with sunburn peeling. It can be used on your face and your body. As a bonus, it’s paraben-free and contains no harmful chemicals.
Believe it or not, water is one of the best sunburn remedies. Skin damage caused by the sun causes your body to draw fluid to the affected area and away from other organs. Drinking plenty of water can help your body replace this lost water to heal your sunburn more quickly.
Take Over the Counter Pain Medication
For more severe sunburns, you may want to take over the counter pain medication to help alleviate discomfort. Take ibuprofen or naproxen sodium to reduce pain, or use a pain-relieving gel and apply it directly to the impacted area.
What Not to Do After You Get Sunburned
While there are several things you can and should do after you get a sunburn, there are also a few things you should avoid to help your sunburn heal faster and prevent getting a worse sunburn.
- Don’t pick at a peeling sunburn. It will slow the healing process and cause skin tears.
- Blisters are a sign of a severe sunburn. Don’t apply the same products, like aloe, to this type of sunburn. Instead, cover it to prevent tearing and leave it alone until it heals.
- Don’t keep your house too warm if you’re sunburned, as it can add to your discomfort. Instead, turn your AC low or use fans to blow cool air over your skin.
- Avoid additional sun exposure. Try to stay in the shade and out of the sun until your sunburn heals to avoid making it worse.
While how long it takes for sunburn to heal can vary depending on your skin type and the severity of the burn, there are several ways you can help speed up the process and reduce the pain, redness, and peeling associated with a sunburn. Although, when it comes to overall skin health, the best thing you can do is take preventive measures to avoid sunburn.