Ever wonder just what happens to your skin when you get a sunburn? The redness, the pain, the peeling… it’s not just a few days of discomfort. The truth is, a person’s risk for melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer – doubles if she or he has had five or more sunburns*. So let’s take a closer look at what happens to your skin when you burn, and why you should always wear a broad spectrum sunscreen:
A sunburn is a clear sign that UV radiation (from the natural sun or artificial sun beds) has damaged the genetic material (DNA) in your skin cells. This damage can lead to skin cancer. The redness is caused by extra blood in the capillaries – if you press on sunburned skin it will turn white and then return to red as the capillaries refill.
The symptoms of pain you feel from a sunburn is your body’s attempt to repair the damage caused by the burn.**
Your skin is damaged after a sunburn, and the peeling you experience is your body’s way of getting rid of the damaged cells. This is necessary because sun-damaged cells are at risk of becoming cancerous.** Even though new skin layers of skin form, some damage may remain, and there may be an increased risk of skin cancer.**
A Sunburn vs. a Hot object burn
Sunburns are caused by the sun’s UV rays – which do not feel warm. (That’s why you can get a sunburn on a cool, cloudy day!) When a hot object is touched (like hot stove), skin can become red and painful, but there no DNA damage is done to cells, as it is with the sunburn. Only the sunburn can have lasting effects on the body.
I love this clever video from the people at SunSmart UK:
Do you remember your first (or last) sunburn? Tell me about it in the comments!
* Source: SkinCancer.org
** Source: sunsmart.org.uk