It is summertime and while we are all enjoying the various benefits of this beautiful season there is one side effect we shouldn’t ignore and that is SUNBURN.
I’m guessing almost all of you have experienced those moments when you forgot to put your sunscreen on or you just wanted to get some summery glow, which a couple hours later turned into a red and painful experience. Yes, we’ve all been there time and time again. We promised ourselves it wouldn’t happen but somehow we managed to get yet another sunburn. No matter how much we try there is nothing we can do to reverse the effects of those harmful UV rays.
Would we repeat the same mistake over and over again if we understood what is happening to our skin when it gets sunburned? Probably not…
That is why I find it very important to educate teens and adults about the importance of what is really happening to their skin when it gets sunburned.
What is a Sunburn?
A sunburn is the skin’s response to extreme ultraviolet (UV) exposure and indicates severe damage. After 10 minutes of intense UV exposure the skin’s own defense mechanism kicks in to protect itself. The first indication of damage is redness. This is the body’s inflammatory response in situations requiring repair and is a result of dilating blood vessels.
The skin will then start to lose moisture and hydration, which will be apparent with a feeling of tightness. Slowly, skin cells will start to thicken and melanin pigment will be produced. Melanin is the pigment that is responsible for darkening the skin. Your skin turns darker so it can stop the UV rays from penetrating through to the deeper layers and damaging the DNA of the cells.
The body is excellent at repairing minimal amounts of damage, but if the exposure is greater than the body’s ability to repair, the consequences are serious. If DNA is damaged and its repair mechanisms are inhibited, skin cancer may occur.
Remember, there is no such thing as a safe tan! Any form of tanning means there is some sort of damage that is happening to the skin.
Why Does the Skin Peel ?
Peeling after sunburn is your body’s way of getting rid of the damaged cells that are at risk of “losing control” and becoming cancerous. Due to this danger, all damaged cells are instructed to shed off. This mass suicide of cells results in whole layers of damaged skin peeling off, to be replaced by new cells underneath those layers.
What should I do if I get a sunburn?
At this point the damage is already done. Your skin is red, painful and full of blisters and eventually start to peel. So, what should you do?
1, First and foremost don’t pick at the peeling skin! The skin heals much faster in a moist environment and a peeling dry skin can act as a Band-Aid to help hold moisture in your skin.
2, Make sure to keep your skin hydrated with a light water based lotion. My favorite is natural aloe gel or a hydrating serum with hyaluronic acid because of its healing benefits.
3, Do not use any exfoliating serum (such as glycolic-, salicylic-, or madelic acid) or benzoyl peroxide lotion on a sunburned skin. You have to wait until the skin heals and then you can slowly start reintroducing them.
4, Only wash your skin with a gentle cleanser! Exfoliating scrubs or brushes can be to irritating and slow down the healing process.
5, Be patient, your skin will heal itself but it might take a couple of days.
6, Last but not least: Stay away form the sun! After your skin is burned the protective barrier is already compromised and cannot provide you with natural sun protection. Wear a light T-shirt, put a nice big hat on and always apply a broad spectrum SPF to provide complete protection to the sun-exposed areas.
The best medicine is prevention. Apply your SPF generously and avoid direct sun exposure. Keep in mind, the skin is a great record keeper and even with a great after-sun product, irreparable damage may have occurred in the form of premature aging or skin cancer that may only reveal itself later.
Do you need expert skin care advice from a licensed esthetician/acne specialist? Schedule your appointment for a consultation to get the personalized advice on products and treatments that are right for you.
© 2013 Nikolett Ivanyi, Envision Acne Center; For more information go to www.envisionacnecenter.com