Sunburn is an inflammatory response of the skin to exposure to ultraviolet radiation. A common myth about sunburn is that people with dark complexion are not photosensitive. Even if they are less susceptible to sunburn, they are not 100% protected from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. As the ozone layer is depleted by global warming, more and more people are vulnerable to sunburn. It has become the center of concern for many doctors and dermatologists because it one of the leading causes of skin cancer.
If you thought that the sun is the only cause of sunburn, then you are wrong. Many devices including tanning beds, arc lamps, and phototherapy lamps use ultraviolet rays in their functioning. Anyone using these devices is at a risk of exposure to ultraviolet radiation. The severity of sunburn is explained in three degrees; the first, the second and the third. How fast the symptoms disappear depends on the gravity of the burn. This article will discuss how long it takes for sunburn symptoms experienced in each degree to heal.
- First-degree Sunburn
When exposed to ultraviolet radiation(UVR), the chromophores molecules of the epidermis layer of the skin absorbs this light. Excessive UVR causes oxidation of the amino acids which stimulates the production of melanin by melanocytes. Melanin is a color pigment responsible for darkening the skin. The first symptom of sunburn is skin reddening caused by melanin. The skin might feel hot to touch. These symptoms are mild and will disappear within an hour or two without further UVR exposure.
- Second-degree sunburn
Melanin prevents further absorption of UVR absorption. However, it can only be produced to a limited extent. If the body does not produce enough melanin, the symptoms felt in the first-degree sunburn extend to the second degree. The excess UVR mutates and damages the DNA cells of the skin cells. The body repairs the damaged cells, but the cells already destroyed cause blisters. This explains the small fluid-filled blisters, swelling and tenderness on the skin of people with sunburns. The body performs this repair in hours, which is why it may take up to 36 hours for these symptoms to appear.
The good news these symptoms will disappear on their own within 48 hours.
- Third-degree sunburn
Symptoms characterized in this degree are from extreme UVR exposure. Severe sunburn means that more DNA cells have been destroyed. This level of sunburn is characterized by blisters that cover a larger part of the body, increasing pain, increasing tenderness as well as increased swelling. Sometimes, the blisters may have pus and red streaks originating from them. As the body tries to fight these symptoms on its own, mild headache, nausea and fatigue are experienced. Without medical attention, these symptoms will take a week or longer to heal.
The action you take after sunburn is important. Application of sunscreen before and during the sun exposure will minimize UVR absorption in the skin. At this point, we must agree that prevention is better than cure. Don’t wait for a mild sunburn symptom to be severe. Get out of the sun and if you have to go back, apply and carry with you a sunscreen.