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What is a sunburn?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Sunburn is a type of radiation burn to the skin caused by too much exposure to the invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun or a sun lamp.  Watch the animation to learn more about sunburn’s effects and how to prevent them.

A sunburn is just what it sounds like—a burn from the sun's rays. You can also get a sunburn from a tanning bed or lamp. They have the same rays.

Sunburn can happen when you don't protect your skin from the sun. It's more likely to happen during the middle of the day, when the sun is brightest. And although anyone can get a sunburn, it usually happens quicker in people with light skin.

Sunburns are uncomfortable. But the big problem with sunburns is that they can lead to skin cancer later in life. That's why you should work to prevent sunburns as well as treat them.

Sunburn is the pain, redness and swelling associated with over-exposure to the harmful rays of the sun. Sunburn can last several days to more than a week and can include the shedding of the top layers of the skin (peeling). Use a sunscreen and wear protective clothing to safeguard your skin from the sun's harmful rays.

Dr. Jeffrey A. Benabio, MD
Dermatologist (Skin Specialist)

When ultraviolet light from the sun hits your skin it causes radiation damage. If the radiation damage is severe, then the injured cells die and your immune system kicks in to clear out the dead cells. Blisters and peeling skin are the dead cells sloughing off. Pain and redness is your immune system in high gear clearing the radiation-damaged area before more harm can occur.

Sunburn is injury to the skin caused by overexposure to the rays of the sun or a sunlamp. Sunburn causes redness and sometimes blistering of the skin. Most symptoms do not start until two to four hours after being in the sun or under a sunlamp. The symptoms are worse after 24 hours. Repeated sunburns greatly increase the risk for skin cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.