Skin After Sunburn [Problems & Treatments]

Sunburn can be detrimental to the skin and general health. Therefore, it is crucial to learn how to treat skin after sunburn and how to prevent sunburn.

Skin After Sunburn

Discoloration of Skin After Sunburn – Treatment

You have the option of treating skin discoloration after sunburn with home treatments, medical treatments, or both treatments.

Home Treatments

  • Use lemon juice. Apply some of the liquid to the discolored skin areas two times every day. It may lighten dark spots. And you may see noticeable results within seven weeks.
  • Use Vitamin C. Consume vegetables and fruits that are rich in vitamin C. Take fruits such as pineapple and oranges as often as possible. Vitamin C is great at combatting aging spots and making the skin healthier.
  • Apply creams. There are creams, such as creams with Vitamins A or E, that you can use to improve the look of discolored skin. They are usually non-prescription, so you can find them over the counter and use them according to the instructions on the labels.
  • Use castor oil. Apply the oil to the affected skin areas two times every day. It will dissolve excess melanin that causes pigmentation and make the skin smooth. Another way is to soak a bandage in the oil and wrap it over the discolored skin overnight.
  • Drink special tea. Drink milk thistle, red clover, or burdock tea. They may work at reducing the discoloration of the skin due to sunburn or other causes.

Medical Treatments

  • Chemical peel. Peels with glycolic acid or salicylic acid can remove the discolored top layer of the skin.
  • Topical cream. Prescription-strength Vitamin A (retinol) or hydroquinone creams can lighten discolored patches of skin.
  • Laser therapy. Laser devices such as intense pulsed light ones work at lightening dark skin patches. You can opt for this treatment along with other home remedies, per the doctor’s instructions.

What Happens When Your Skin Is Sunburned?

When you get sunburned, your skin undergoes a few changes. Excessive exposure to the ultra-violet rays of the sun kills the skin cells off. Those that manage to remain may get damaged beyond repair. 

However, the blood vessels in the skin dilate so that the flow of blood increases. The blood brings immune cells with it to heal the skin and remove harmful deposits. But the process causes the inflammation, redness, and occasional swelling you associate with sunburn.

It will heal with time, as most injuries do. But in a few cases, the damage to the skin cells leads to their mutation, and they cannot be repaired. Those mutations may become cancerous over time.

How to Recover Skin After Sunburn

There are ways to recover your skin quickly after having a sunburn, and we are listing a few of them here:

1. Apply Cold Compresses

Immediately after getting sunburned, you can use a cold compress on the affected area. The coolness will help absorb some of the heat in your skin, thereby reducing the chances of skin inflammation.

2. Sleep Well

While sleeping, your body is able to produce come cytokines that manage inflammation. The burn heals faster that way. But if you don’t sleep well, your body may not produce enough of these cytokines. As a result, the sunburn won’t heal as fast.

3. Take Cool Baths

Avoid warm or hot baths when your skin is sunburned. Instead, take cool baths; cool water will soothe the hot skin and reduce pain and inflammation. When drying off, don’t rub your skin. Pat it dry and leave some moisture on it. Then, apply a moisturizer to lock moisture into the skin.

4. Use Aloe Vera

Aloin in aloe vera combats inflammation, reducing it and helping the skin to heal faster. Also, aloe vera gel moisturizes the skin to prevent dryness and peeling.

5. Drink Fluids

Apart from using a suitable moisturizer, you should drink lots of water and other recommended fluids such as fresh fruit juices. The fluids will keep your skin hydrated and boost the work of the moisturizer on the skin. Remember that sunburns suck moisture out of the skin, so it is vital to replenish as much of it as possible.

6. Avoid Sun Exposure

You will extend the damage on your skin from sunburn if you expose yourself to more sunlight. Try as much as possible to stay indoors for a few days while you heal. But if you must head out, wear adequate sunscreen and protective clothing.

7. Don’t Smoke

Smoking promotes inflammation. So does the use of any form of tobacco. The inflammation happens all over the body, and not just on the skin. Inflammation does not help sunburns to heal faster; instead, it worsens them. You may find it difficult to stop, but a doctor can draw up a plan for quitting.

8. Use a Hydrocortisone Cream

Hydrocortisone cream works well at reducing inflammation and treating swelling, itchiness, and irritation. At the initial stages of a sunburn, the cream can lower pain and swelling.

How Long Does a Sunburn Take to Heal?

If you have a severe sunburn, it may take at least two weeks for it to heal. And that would be with the right treatments and care. But if you have a mild to moderate sunburn, it may take only a week to heal entirely, with the attending therapies and care.

Itchy Skin After a Sunburn – Remedies

Try as much as possible not to scratch your skin if it starts to itch after a sunburn. Instead, take an oatmeal bath or shower with oatmeal skincare products. Ensure the shower is with cool water.

Applying aloe vera gel after sunburn can eliminate itching and help the sunburn heal quickly. Also, using a moisturizer adds water to the skin and prevents dryness. Dry skin leads to itching, and your skin dries out when it is sunburned. Apply the moisturizer immediately after you leave the shower, and your skin is still damp.

In addition, you can apply a steroid cream or use a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug. Either of these helps with the itching and pain associated with sunburns.

Immediately after you get sunburned, apply a cool compress to the affected skin area to lower the heat and reduce the chances of inflammation. That may help eliminate some of the itchings that will occur due to dryness. And keep out from under the sun as much as possible while your skin is healing.

Itchy skin usually resolves after a couple of days. But contact your doctor if your skin keeps itching for more than two days. It may be a case of sun poisoning.

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Peeling Skin After a Sunburn – Remedies

The following are some remedies to use if your skin is peeling after a sunburn:

1. Use Moisturizer

Or aloe vera, as both can help make the sunburn heal faster. Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce swelling and encourage healing. If you are going for a moisturizer, don’t use an oil-based one because it can lock the heat into your skin and further irritate it.

2. Apply Honey

The sugar in honey makes it effective as an antibacterial substance. It will help the sunburnt skin to heal quicker while protecting it from infection. The faster the injury heals, the faster the peeling stops. But be sure to use pure honey as ordinary honey tends to contain bacteria strains that can lead to infections.

3. Take Oatmeal Baths

Oatmeal’s capacity to lock moisture into the skin encourages the healing process. And its anti-inflammatory properties reduce possible swelling. Therefore, consider taking colloidal oatmeal baths if you are sunburned.

Pour a cup of oatmeal into a bath of lukewarm or cool water. Then, soak in the tub for about ten minutes.

Never exfoliate or try to peel already peeling skin. At that point, the skin is sensitive, and you may irritate and expose it to infection if you exfoliate it.

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Sunburn Prevention

It is best to prevent having a sunburn than try to manage or treat it. That way, your skin won’t itch or peel due to dryness. So, to prevent sunburn, do the following:

Use sunscreen. Ensure the sunscreen is the broad-spectrum type and is not less than SPF 30. Apply it a few minutes before leaving the house so that your skin can fully absorb it.

Wear protective clothing along with sunscreen. But if sunscreen is not readily available, use just protective clothing. Long-sleeved clothes, wide-brimmed hats, and pants work in this case. And shorten the time you spend under the sun, especially if you burn easily.

Keep your outdoor errands within the early morning hours, before 10 am. If that does not work, go for the errands after 4 pm. However, if you cannot avoid it, stay in the shade for most of the time within those hours.

Drink lots of fluids, especially water, because proper hydration helps to keep your skin protected. It would be harder to sunburn if you reduced your sun exposure and kept your skin hydrated.

Finally, protect yourself even if you are indoors. UV rays can penetrate through windows and cause harm to your skin. Keep away from the windows during sunny hours, but you can also wear sunscreen and protective gear.

Purple Skin After a Sunburn – Treatment

You may have blood vessels that have burst under the skin after intense and prolonged sun exposure, causing the pooling of blood and purple discoloration. It usually resolves within a week or two if there is no underlying condition. But purple skin after a sunburn, or sunburn purpura, tends to indicate a more severe underlying condition that needs immediate medical attention.

If the purple skin does not resolve with the usual sunburn treatment after one or two weeks and is accompanied by increased pain or discomfort, see your doctor.

Dry Skin After a Sunburn – How to Treat

Keep the skin moisturized and hydrated if you feel dryness in your skin. Take cool baths or showers for the duration of the sunburn. And after the bath or shower, pat the skin dry instead of rubbing, but leave some water on your skin. Then, apply some moisturizer so that it traps the water into the skin and boosts hydration.

When you experience dry skin, whether or not you have a sunburn, don’t bathe with hot water. You will worsen the situation by stripping oils from the skin and leaving it irritable. But if the dry skin does not let up within a few days, depending on the severity of the sunburn, visit your doctor.

Bumps on Skin After a Sunburn – Treatment

You may have sunburn blisters if there are bumps on your skin after a sunburn. Take a lot of fluids, especially water, and use cool compresses on the affected areas. Gently apply the compress so that you don’t open the blisters and worsen the injury by leaving it vulnerable to infection.

Use a moisturizer that contains aloe vera on the blisters. The high moisture content will encourage faster healing and protect the skin. Keep the skin protected from additional sun exposure while it heals. Additionally, take ibuprofen to lower discomfort and swelling.

Blisters that appear as bumps on the skin tend to show up hours after sun exposure. And they appear after you have exposed yourself to intense sun rays for an extended period. It may take one week or more for the blisters and sunburn to heal and fade. But you may have pigmentation on your skin where the blisters used to be that lasts months before it resolves.

Blotchy Skin After Sunburn – Causes and Treatment

Use cool compresses and ask your doctor to prescribe creams with ingredients that can soothe the redness and inflammation. Aloe vera helps a lot, so try using a moisturizer with soy and aloe vera in it.

Blotchy skin is part of too much sun exposure. Typically, the blotchiness disappears after a few days. But if your skin begins to blister, you may need immediate medical attention and antibiotics. You will also need a doctor if the blotchiness worsens and is accompanied by chills and a fever.

Skin Burning After Sunburn – What to Do

Sunburn causes the skin to burn. You will feel some pain and see redness, but the symptoms will affect the top skin layer. However, it is mild and resolves within a few days with some home remedies.

Use cool compresses and aloe vera on the affected skin area. Don’t use cold water or ice on it as it can worsen the damage. Take a painkiller to reduce discomfort and apply hydrocortisone cream to eliminate swelling and irritation.

Keep an eye on the skin for the next few days for signs of infection. The burning should subside as you treat it, and the sunburn should heal fast if you follow the proper treatment methods.

Skin Cancer After Sunburn

You are likely to get skin cancer after sunburn, especially if the sunburn is severe. In a few cases, even a single sunburn incident can increase the chances of skin cancer. Sunburn is when ultraviolet sun rays damage the skin cells’ genetic material. If some of the cells fail to repair over time, they may mutate and become cancerous.

How Long After a Sunburn Can You Get Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer from sunburn is usually cumulative. Cancer does not develop immediately after a sunburn; it may take years before it shows. If you get severe sunburns with blisters before you are 18, you are likely to have a melanoma when you are older. In other words, early exposure to sunburns increases the risk of getting skin cancer at a later stage.

How to Tell If You Have Skin Cancer from Sunburn

You can tell if you have skin cancer from sunburn if you notice a new lesion or mole on your skin. You will also know if an existing mole changes. Squamous cell carcinoma tends to appear as a flat scaly lesion, rough to touch and flat. It can also show up as a red and firm nodule.

Basal cell carcinoma tends to show up as a small bump, smooth, waxy to the touch. The likeliest skin areas it appears are the neck or face. But if you see a flat brown-colored or red-colored lesion on your arms, trunk, or legs, it may be a basal cell carcinoma.

Melanoma looks like a pigmented bump or patch. It may look like a regular mole that suddenly appears but tends to look more irregular than the usual mole.

The best way to detect skin cancer is through a biopsy. Some benign moles and warts may look cancerous, but it is crucial not to conclude until a doctor looks at them.

These are the three types of cancer you will typically find on the skin. Squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma are less severe than melanoma and are 95% of skin cancers. They are easy to treat if they are caught early. Melanoma is severe and causes most of the deaths that come from skin cancer. If it is not caught early, it can affect other organs and get out of control.

How to Avoid Skin Cancer After Sunburn

To avoid skin cancer after already having multiple severe sunburns, the best first step is to check yourself in a mirror. You know your body better than anyone else, so you can tell if any strange lesions or moles appear that weren’t there. Check every part of your skin and don’t skip any part.

These lesions or moles may look strangely shaped, pink, red, black, or brown in color. If you notice such moles or lesions, see a doctor immediately for an evaluation. And if you have had skin cancer before, it is vital to have checkups every year.

Typically, people apply sunscreens to obvious places like the face, arms, and legs. But they forget to apply on the back of the legs, lower back, feet, and even the back untouched. These become vulnerable to excessive sun exposure and skin cancer later.

Other steps to avoid skin cancer after sunburn are:

  • Use topical sunscreens instead of edible sunscreens. Edible sunscreens may not provide the needed sun protection from UV rays, thereby making them unsuitable for use during sunny days.
  • Using a lot of sunscreen. The sunscreen must be the broad-spectrum type and should be water-resistant with an SPF value of 30 or higher. Don’t scrimp when you are applying sunscreen on your next trip out of the house to go sunbathing.
  • Store your sunscreen in a cool and safe place. Don’t leave it in the car on a hot day where heat can reduce its effectiveness. Instead, keep it in your bag when you are on the move. And if you are sunbathing or on the beach, place it next to your snacks and beverages cooler.
  • Stay out of the sun during peak sun hours. And those would be between 10 am and 2 pm. Plan your schedule to fall within the hours before the sun is too hot or after its intensity drops.
  • Use protective clothing if you must go out, along with sunscreen. Pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats that have wide brims work at providing the needed protection. But there are clothes with ultraviolet protection; find those types in stores if you already have sunburns.
  • Don’t use tanning beds. Or go to tanning houses, for that matter. There is no healthy tan, as tans simply mean skin damage. Using ultraviolet tanning beds to get tans does not keep you safer from getting skin cancer than going under the sun. You have a 67% higher chance of getting squamous cell carcinoma and a 59% higher chance of melanoma if you use tanning beds.
  • Use lip balms to protect your lips from harmful sun rays. You can also use opaque lipsticks and lip glosses with pigments. It is interesting to note that your lips are not exempt from getting sunburned, thereby risking skin cancer.
  • Keep away from ultraviolet lights in nail salons. The lights used to dry nail polish are likely to cause skin cancer in the long run. Besides, they can make your hands look wrinkly and spotty.
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Skin Infection After a Sunburn – Treatment

It is rare for sunburned skin to develop an infection. But if it happens, see your doctor as quickly as possible. The infection will delay the healing process, which usually takes at least two weeks under normal circumstances. However, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics and other treatments depending on the severity of the sunburn and infection.

You will know you have an infection on sunburned skin if it swells with red streaks or pus. You may also feel feverish with some chills, headaches, confusion, and even dehydration.

Does Mitosis Repair Skin Following Sunburn?

Mitosis cell division repairs the skin after a sunburn. It takes place in the somatic cells and divides one cell into two. It makes it easier for the skin to heal as it provides more healthy cells to make up for the damaged ones.

Yellow Skin After Sunburn – What It Means

It may be that your skin is infected if it turns yellow after a sunburn. But that is not the only indication of an infection. If there is no swelling or pus, with blisters and pain, it may not be infected. However, if one or more of these symptoms appear and the skin turns yellow, see your doctor immediately for treatment.


Sunburn is usually not dire; most sunburns disappear within a few days or weeks. But if you have a severe sunburn, it is best to see your doctor for the best treatment. Keep an eye on your skin until it heals so that if an infection develops, you will catch it quickly and treat it. The same applies if there is a possibility of skin cancer.

Additionally, learn how to protect your skin from harmful sun rays. Use adequate sunscreen and protective gear if you will be exposed to the sun for prolonged periods. But the best action is to stay out from under the sun.