Sunburn is damage caused to the skin by UV rays (sunshine).

The skin becomes red, warm, sore and tender. It may start to flake and peel after a few days, and will usually fully heal within 7 days.

Sunburn is usually mild and short-lived, but it’s important to try to avoid it because it can increase your risk of developing skin problems in later life, such as ageing (wrinkling) and skin cancer.

It can be easy to underestimate the strength of the sun when you’re outside. The wind and getting wet, such as going in and out of the sea, may cool your skin, so you don’t realise you’re getting burnt.

You should always be aware of the risk of sunburn if you’re outside in strong sunshine, and look out for your skin getting hot.

Avoiding Sunburn

  • Apply sunscreen
    Apply a good amount of sunscreen of at least factor 15 and four-star UVA rating. You should follow the guidance on the bottle of how often you should reapply.

    After swimming or being in water, you should always reapply sunscreen after you’ve got out and dried off, even if you use water-resistant sunscreen.
  • Spend time in the shade
    Stay in the shade between the hottest hours of the day 11am & 3pm.
  • Cover up
    Wear suitable clothing and sunglasses
  • Drink plenty
    Drink plenty of water or juice throughout the day to keep hydrated.
  • Take extra care
    You should take extra care in the sun if you:
    – have pale, white or light brown skin
    – have freckles or red/fair har
    – tend to burn rather than tan
    – have many moles
    – have a family history of skin cancer

Self Care Techniques

If you do get sunburnt follow these steps to try and ease your discomfort.

  • Cool your skin by having a cold bath or shower or by holding a cool flannel or sponge to it
  • Use lotions containing Aloe Vera to soothe and moisturise your skin
  • Drink plenty of water to cool you down and prevent dehydration
  • Take painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve pain

When to get medical advice

Contact your GP or call NHS 111 if you feel unwell or you’re concerned about your sunburn, particularly if you’re burnt over a large area or have any of the more severe symptoms listed below.

You should also see your GP if a young child or baby has sunburn as their skin is particularly sensitive.

Signs of severe sunburn can include:

Special burn cream and burn dressings may be needed for severe sunburn. These are available from your GP or nurse at your GP surgery.