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Is Sunburn Actually Dangerous? Here’s What You Need To Know

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As summertime kicks into full swing, and as more and more people head out to the pools, lakes, and rivers to swim and have a good time, an important topic of conversation often comes up. 

What about sunburn?

Most of us have had to deal with this issue at least to a certain extent. But is sunburn actually dangerous, or is it more of an annoyance than anything else?

Some people say that sunburn increases your risk for skin cancer. 

Some say that it can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles.

Are these things true? Or are they just wives tales?

Let’s dive in and talk about this topic a bit more in-depth. 

What Is A Sunburn?

A sunburn is what happens when the skin is exposed to extreme ultraviolet light for an extended period of time. For a moment or two, direct sunlight has little effect on the skin. In fact, a bit of sunlight is actually really good for you. 

But in larger increments (even just 5 to 10 minutes), the skin will start to kick into ‘defense mode’ to protect itself from damage. 

The first sign of a sunburn is redness of the skin. 

This redness is actually caused by an inflammatory response. The skin is beginning the process of repairing damage, and the redness comes from the dilating of the blood vessels. 

But soon, actual radiation burns will appear on the skin. 

The body is really good at handling UV exposure in small amounts. And it’s also good at repairing the damage caused by it in small amounts. 

But if you spend too much time in direct sunlight, without protective clothing or sunscreen, the reddening will worsen, and blisters/burns can develop. 

If you’ve ever had a bad sunburn that ‘peeled’ later on, you know first-hand what it’s like to experience a more destructive level of radiation damage to your skin. 

Will Sunburns Cause Long Term Damage To The Skin?

Repeated exposure to UV radiation and sunburn damage can actually increase your risk of several different skin conditions

First of all, it can prematurely age your skin—leading to skin that looks older, and more wrinkled. 

Secondly, it can lead to precancerous skin lesions. These are scaly patches of skin that can appear in sun-damaged areas, and they have the potential to turn into cancer later on. 

Skin cancer can also develop after excessive sun exposure and sunburn. The parts of the body most-likely to develop such damage to the DNA cells include areas of the body that tend to be caught in direct sunlight most often: the scalp, lips, face, ears, neck, arms, chest, legs, and hands. 

How To Protect Yourself

Protecting yourself from sunburn is important. 

And the best way to do it is to shield your skin from the sunlight as often as possible. 

If you do plan to be out in the sun, make sure to use plenty of sunscreen, to protect your skin and keep that sunlight from beating down too hard. 

You can also wear clothing (long sleeves, a hat, shoes that cover your feet, etc.) to help keep the sun’s rays from damaging your skin. 

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