Skin cancer is now the most common form of cancer in the United States, and the number of people affected is on the rise—according to the American Academy of Dermatology, over 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every single day.
Ultimately, it’s UV exposure that’s causing most cases of skin cancer, coming from—you guessed it—good old fashioned sunburns.
In this blog, Good Day Pharmacy—the premier pharmacy in Fort Collins—will help you better understand what sunburns are, how they affect your body, and how you can treat them or avoid them altogether. We’ll tell you right now… it takes a bit more effort than putting on sunscreen.
What Is A Sunburn?
Simply put, a sunburn is your skin’s reaction to UV exposure and damage—and no matter how much you want to believe you’re just “getting a base tan” or making a small sacrifice to boost your vitamin D, you’re always doing damage to your skin. That classic redness that comes with a sunburn is extra blood in your capillaries rising to the surface of your skin to regenerate the genetic material you’ve destroyed (you’re essentially scorching your own DNA every time you get a sunburn). It doesn’t take a nasty burn to cause skin damage and increase your risk of cancer—even the slightest damage can lead to skin cancer.
How Your Body Deals With The Damage
All the pain, stinging, itching, and peeling from a sunburn is just your body’s way to deal with UV damage to your skin. For example, peeling skin caused by sunburn is just your body’s way of removing the dead, burnt skin cells from your body, allowing for newer, undamaged skin cells to appear at the surface. Similarly, that itching sensation you feel from a sunburn is essentially a signal that something’s not right with your skin—essentially, it’s a very mild pain sensation.
From Sunburn to Sun Poisoning
Extreme sunburn often leads to sun poisoning or “sun sickness” which can make you experience a variety of symptoms like severe blistering and peeling, dizziness, fever, chills, nausea, swelling, and migraine headaches. In situations like these, you’ll need to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Sunburns vs. Object Burns
Many people wonder about the differences between sunburns and other burns, like when you burn your hand with a lighter or touch a hot frying pan. The difference is in the DNA—while object burns do not affect DNA stability or structure, sunburn cause extensive damage to DNA. This is why sunburns can have such long-term and potentially cancerous effects on the body.
Getting Rid of a Sunburn
There’s no true way to get rid of a sunburn—only ways to deal with the consequences. In terms of pain, there are many paths to relief, like applying cold compresses, aloe vera, and hydrocortisone cream, and drinking plenty of water or sports drinks to replenish your skin with moisture and nutrients.
Even after your sunburn subsides, that doesn’t mean you’re off scot-free—your skin is, in a way, permanently damaged by every sunburn you receive. In the words of every baseball commentator in history: “The inning is over, but the damage is done.” The only way to avoid sunburn damage is to prevent a sunburn from happening in the first place.
This might seem obvious to most, but preventing sunburns is all about shielding your skin from sun exposure. That can be done with sunscreen (preferably broad-spectrum and SPF 30 or higher), protective clothing like hats, sunglasses, and long-sleeve shirts, and—of course—by avoiding the sun altogether.
It’s even more important to teach children how to avoid sunburn, so they’re not exposed to sunburn damage at an early age. Teach them the ABCs of skin protection:
- A – Away – Stay away from the sun.
- B – Block – Put on sunblock.
- C – Cover Up – Wear protective clothing.
Start your kids early on healthy skincare habits, and they’ll be better protected during a lifetime of sun exposure!
How to Apply Sunscreen
It doesn’t matter how many SPFs you have working for you—if you don’t apply sunscreen properly, you’re going to get burned. Find a sunscreen that’s right for your skin type (thick creams for dry skin, alcohols and gels for oily skin, and spray-on sunscreen for all those hairy areas), and apply a thick, even coat across all exposed skin areas. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after you’ve spent some time in water (or done a great deal of sweating)—and keep on applying as long as you’re out in the sun. Don’t forget what your mother taught you—put a little extra sunscreen on the ears, nose, and neck.
Talk to Your Fort Collins Pharmacist
If you’re looking for sunburn relief, or hoping to avoid a sunburn in the first place, Good Day Pharmacy can help. We carry a variety of products (and knowledge) that can help you stay healthy and happy all summer long. Visit one of our Northern Colorado locations today!