How do you get sunburned?

By now we should all know what causes a sunburn—exposure to the sun—and how to prevent a sunburn—applying sunscreen or staying out of the sun. Despite the simplicity of how to avoid a painful burn, the Skin Cancer Foundation found that approximately 42% of people still get a sunburn at least once a year. We’ve all heard the scary statistics: one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life, and a person’s risk for melanoma also doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns at any age.

The Science of a Sunburn

Immediately after sun exposure, your skin will appear pink, which is from the dilation of the capillaries due to a reaction to UVB rays. The actual painful burn that can last for a couple of days is from a series of chemical reactions in the skin cells that trigger more chemical production and inflammation. Eventually skin cells begin to die as the skin turns a darker red. Soon after, the skin will begin to peel. This is the skin’s way of purging damaged cells that could otherwise become cancerous.

(More information about the different UV rays can be found here)

An in-depth look at how to avoid a sunburn

As the chart shows, in a controlled environment and with the proper application, an SPF 30 sunscreen would protect for up to 5 hours of sun exposure before sunburn occurs. Here is a handy chart to help understand the relationship between SPF, sun exposure, and sunburn. The Y axis measures the accumulating sunburning dose of UV radiation. Sun exposure accumulates: being in the sun for 1 hour, in the shade/inside for 1 hour, and then back in the sun for 1 hour equates to a total of 2 hours of sun exposure.

There are factors that affect the UV exposure measurement; UV exposure is doubled around water and snow due to reflection, and exposure increases with elevation. Based on the accumulating UV exposure, imperfect sunscreen application, and the uncontrolled outdoor environment, Goddess Garden recommends that you reapply every 2 hours for the best protection.

As can be seen in the chart, an SPF 60 sunscreen will last longer than 5 hours of sun exposure. On the surface, this seems like a good thing, but in order to achieve an SPF 60 a sunscreen will need either more chemicals or more minerals in their formula. Obviously, Goddess Garden does not include any chemical sunscreens in our products, but we also believe that SPF 30 and SPF 50 provide optimum protection for physical sunscreens while allowing for an easier, sheer application. The amount of additional minerals needed to reach SPF 60 would make the lotion much harder to apply, while only providing very slightly more coverage. And regardless of SPF level, the FDA recommends that sunscreen is reapplied every 2 hours. Because of this, we at Goddess Garden have made a decision to only manufacture sheer sunscreen up to SPF 50.

What should you do after a bad burn?

First of all, stay out of the sun! Let your damaged skin have a moment to heal before subjecting it to more UV rays. Long term exposure to the sun may have left you dehydrated, so make sure to drink plenty of water. If your skin is blistering and extremely painful, seek help from a physician. Otherwise, take some time to reduce inflammation by soaking in a cool bath and applying a soothing after-sun cream to the affected areas. Look for products that contain ingredients such as aloe, lavender, cucumber, and yucca to reduce irritation, pain, and redness. Avoid greasy creams as they prevent the skin from cooling off and can make the situation worse. Again, stay out of the sun for a few days while your sensitive skin is repairing itself.

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